Pageant lessons useful to MJ Lastimosa’s show biz career
If there’s one thing MJ Lastimosa learned from pageantry that’s proving to be useful in her foray into show biz, it’s independence in the workplace. And that’s especially true these days, she said, because production is limited by pandemic-related restrictions.
“After our training, we’re on our own in the contests. We do our own makeup, everything. And now because of the pandemic, the number of people allowed on the set is limited. I don’t just appear … then act or host. I take care of all the things I need. I’m already used to it,” she told the Inquirer in a recent virtual conference for the romantic comedy “Take Me to Banaue.”
“Resilience and patience are also important,” added the 2014 Miss Universe Philippines titleholder. “You have to work hard. The training takes a lot of time. You have to hold on to the things you want to achieve. And I think the same things apply to hosting or acting. You have to have a lot of patience and remain focused for the desired outcome.”
In “Take Me to Banaue”—produced by Carpe Diem Pictures and directed by Manny Aguilar—MJ plays a female escort named Paloma. The story, which also stars Maureen Wroblewitz, Thea Tolentino and American actors Brandon Melo and Dylan Rogers, revolves around a gawky American engineer looking for love in the Philippines.“When I was told I would be playing an escort, I got interested because I know that there’s a story behind every character, that she has her reasons for doing what she does,” she said.
While still relatively inexperienced in acting, MJ is grateful for the collaborative spirit while filming in Baguio City. “I asked how I should portray my role. There was collaboration among the artists, director and writers. Whenever I portray a character, I try to put myself in her. I don’t draw from past experiences to cry. I put myself in the situation so I can really feel what the character feels in a certain situation,” she said.
When she dabbled in acting after her reign as Miss Universe Philippines, the roles MJ got were often of “mystical” nature. “I have played mermaids, vampires, etc. And it got me thinking about what I really want to do with my career. I thought maybe I should just pursue hosting. And I did a lot of corporate events and pageants around the country,” she said.
Maybe her beauty queen aura had something to do with it?“When you’re a beauty queen, you have a certain way of standing and carrying yourself. I remember doing an acting stint for ‘Maalaala Mo Kaya’ and there was a scene where I had to walk at a wet market. I had to redo it a couple of times over, because the director told me, ‘MJ, rumarampa ka! Hindi normal ang lakad mo!’” she recalled, laughing.
That’s why she’s thankful to her current management, Virtual Playground, for helping her land roles that she hasn’t done before. “It feels so good to be given an opportunity to step out of the box,” she said. “There are more opportunities now that can help me become a well-rounded artist.”
Aside from acting, MJ is also a guest cohost in the long-running noontime variety show “Eat Bulaga,” which she said, has been an instructive and confidence-boosting experience. There’s no specific path she’s aiming to focus on, she said, and would rather keep an open mind to whatever opportunities that may come.
“I’m just grateful for the work, especially with what has happened in the past two years. I count my blessings, may they be related to hosting or acting. And as long as a project is interesting I will be doing it,” she said. INQ
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