LJ’s entrepreneurial spirit kicks in amid pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic only confirmed what LJ Reyes had known all along: Show biz isn’t forever.
With the health crisis and quarantine practically upending the industry, LJ finds herself contemplating more and more about her family’s future.
Having a fallback, she stressed, is no longer just an option in these uncertain times—it’s a must.
“It’s actually something I had already been thinking about even before the pandemic. I hope to build a career outside show biz,” she told the Inquirer in a recent video conference. “We’re actors. What some people don’t realize is that we’re seasonal workers. We don’t have regular jobs or go to the office every day. We don’t have a monthly income.”
LJ’s goal is to become an established entrepreneur—perhaps it’s the Chinese blood in her, she jested.
She maintains small businesses, including Wonder Jane (LJ stands for Lourna Jane), her line of travel hygiene kits and essentials. She also cofounded a mobile app called Smart Mommy, which helps direct parents to different child-oriented establishments. “These are some of the things that I had been busying myself with. Sadly, these are difficult times, so I have halted operations for my hygiene products. But it will continue,” she said. Along with her need to have a backup plan is an urge to be more practical. And while LJ doesn’t exactly lead a lavish lifestyle to begin with, being in quarantine has made her realize that there are things she could live without. “Some things are immaterial. If you used to have five pairs of black shoes, why not have just one?” she related. “Of course, because of the nature of show biz, I can’t do away with those completely.”
But all things considered, LJ is well aware that her current living conditions are still considerably more comfortable than other people’s. That’s why LJ and her friends Iya Villania, Camille Prats, Chynna Ortaleza, Chariz Solomon and Isabel Oli launched last April a fundraising drive called “Project: Alalay Nanay,” which aims to provide basic necessities for mothers and babies in need.
“We still have some funds to distribute,” she said, adding that she and her fellow celebrity moms will be regrouping soon so that they can continue helping their beneficiaries, even after the lockdown.
“It’s our goal. Even if the quarantine gets lifted, it will be very hard for people, especially the mothers out there, to go back to their old lives—many will lose their jobs, and unemployment is expected to rise,” added the 32-year-old actress. “To respond to that, we will have to come up with a better system.”
Another meaningful realization she had while in quarantine is that our responsibility as people is bigger than we think. “We must protect not only ourselves, but our fellow Filipinos, as well,” she stressed.
LJ, who gave birth to her second child—her first with current partner Paolo Contis—was supposed to fly abroad to shoot her comeback drama series on the Kapuso network. But that plan, as with everything else, was thwarted by COVID-19. And she was disappointed. She even cried over it, she admitted.
But looking back, the project’s postponement was, in a way, a blessing in disguise.
“I need to be at home because I want to take care of my kids,” she said of her 1-year-old daughter, Summer, and 9-year-old son Aki, with ex-boyfriend Paulo Avelino. Though Aki is still very young, he already has sufficient understanding of their situation. “It’s not easy for him to adjust. He’s aware and conscious of what has been happening, but I still need to guide him. I make him read articles and watch videos,” the GMA star related. “More importantly, I tell him about the realities outside our house. I make him aware of his blessings.” Summer, on other hand, provides the daily dose of sunshine for LJ’s household, as well as her social media followers.
“She’s just a very happy kid. Even Aki is so amused with her. When he’s bored, he goes up to Summer and plays with her,” she shared. “And it’s heartening to see people tell me that they, too, find joy in Summer’s videos.”“Everything that has been happening is new to us. Changes are pouring in, and we can’t just absorb them all. There will be lifestyle changes and a lot of risks,” LJ pointed out. “We’re all trying to figure things out as we go.”
Fortunately, Paolo is by her side. And their relationship, she said, has only gotten stronger in the past three months.
“Our communication lines have never been more open.”
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