Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ruffa Gutierrez

TOOK a break from blogging for a while but am back. Yes, I miss doing this.

Anyway, let’s pick up where we left off starting with a familiar pretty face that I featured for the i Section of the Manila Bulletin in 2007. At the time of my interview, Ruffa Gutierrez has been out of the local spotlight and was keeping herself busy in Turkey where was supposedly leading a blissful married life with then husband Yilmaz Bektas.

Since her “return,” Ruffa continues to make headlines with her much-publicized separation from Yilmaz, had a celebrated and acclaimed antagonist turn in the Philippine remake of I Love Betty La Fea, had a nice run as co-host of both Ruffa and Ai (with Ai Ai Delas Alas) and The Buzz that ended on a rather sour note with an ugly spat with Kris Aquino. She is now the latest prized acquisition of TV5 where she is not just one of the judges in the reality talent show, Talentadong Pinoy but also the main host of Paparazzi, a new showbiz talk show that airs on the same time slot as, yes, The Buzz

At the time of our interview, Ruffa was promoting another reality competition series for RPN-9. the Philippines Next Top Model is actually a local version of the very popular America’s Next Top Model hosted and co-produced by Tyra Banks. The local series, however, failed to duplicate the success of its US counterpart and according to Wikipedia, actually ended earlier than expected.

Still, interviewing Ruffa while she was having her make-up for the photo shoot that followed was quite an experience. In more ways than one, she was a pretty interesting subject. Here’s a slightly revised version of that 2007 feature.


IT’S not a comeback, she insists.

The recent TV appearances, the shampoo commercial that was the subject of a controversy involving not her, but two of her other, uh, “co-stars” and now, no less than the coveted hosting job in the Philippines Next Top Model—not exactly the things that Ruffa Guttierez would consider as attempts at reclaiming her spotlight.

Given that Ruffa says that she was never gone to begin with, what’s to reclaim? “Although I had to take two years off from work to be with my family, I was always there naman,” she insists. “When I wasn’t busy as the president of our own TV station in Turkey that brought Fashion TV in that country, I was always supportive of my mom’s work here and my brothers who are very popular now.”

But now that Lorin and Venice, her two daughters from Turkish husband, Yilmaz Bektas is now 2 and 3 years of age respectively, Ruffa sought permission from Yilmaz to “continue doing the things I love doing.” So when Solar Entertainment approached her to do the glamorous reality competition series, it was simply a no-brainer for the effervescent actress, model and former beauty queen—still stunningly gorgeous and disarmingly endearing even with her oh, so familiar expression of “My God!” that often punctuates many of her sentences.

“I already have everything I could ever want. Anything else that the Lord could give me is just icing on the cake. But this is a project that both me and my husband believe in,” she enthuses. “I’ve always loved fashion and I’m a big fan of shows like Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model and its host Tyra Banks. I love Tyra so when the opportunity to host this was offered to me, I just couldn’t say no.”

The Philippines Next Top Model is actually one of 16 international versions of the franchise spawned by America’s Next Top Model, produced by Ken Mok of Making The Band, Anthony Dominic of the multi-awarded The Amazing Race and yes, supermodel Tyra Banks herself.

All versions of the show follow the transformation of young women into potentially fierce supermodels as they vie for a coveted modeling contract—all under 24-hour-a day surveillance that follows their every move. Each week, one contestant is eliminated based on her previous performance and on the challenges presented on the show. Aside from weekly evaluations, the intensive training prepares the aspiring young models for the fast-paced and high-stress nature of the modeling world by looking good not just on fashion photo shoots but also on the ramp.

“In this show, we intend to turn the girl next door into the next fashion diva,” Ruffa exclaims. Like Big Brother and other similar shows, all finalists are cooped up in one roof and Ruffa knows what it’s like to be in that kind of pressure cooker. The one-time Binibining Pilipinas-World and Miss World Second Princess says in her experience, “girls do get jealous of one another, intrigues and catfights do happen.”

Ruffa cites her own experience in the Binibining Pilipinas pageant as an example. “I applied at the last minute, wearing only sneakers and polka dot t-shirt at about 11:50,” she recalls. “I made it before the 12 midnight deadline but half of the girls still walked out when I was accepted. Since then, I kept hearing things about how the pageant is “lukong makaw” or why an actress like me is allowed to join even though it’s not against the rules.”

“One time, there was this other contestant who wanted me to be disqualified because I left my room one night,” she continues. “What she didn’t know was that I asked for the organizers’ permission because I had to attend to something important and they allowed me to. Contrary to what the other contestants were thinking, I did not ask and was not given any VIP treatment there.”

Ruffa actually felt vindicated when she won Binibining Pilipinas-World instead of the “higher” Binibining Pilipinas-Universe because she thought it was a vindication that she was not given any preferential treatment in the pageant, She was also, not a lock to win the top prize as many had anticipated. “My fans were still upset about it at the time, though and threw tomatoes at the judges,” she quips.

That’s why she can relate to the finalists of the Philippines Next Top Model. As their supposed “mentor,” Ruffa says she’s here for them as “their big sister and their best friend.” Her personal interaction with the girls, however, is limited on camera as she was instructed by the American representatives of the Next Top Model franchise that she can’t speak to any of the contestants outside of the show.

“I still got attached to them just the same,” she admits. “During our first taping, I was teary-eyed when the first girl got eliminated. I really want all of them to win but I understand that this is a competition where there has to be winners and losers.”

As for learning new things, Ruffa says she is not at all averse to this and in fact treats every project that she was ever involved with as a learning experience. In the Philippines Next Top Model, she has so far learned a lot from “the best people in the fashion industry” that are involved in the show. “I take note of all the advice and comments of the judges to the girls as many of them are in fact something that I can apply to my own career,” she says.

For more of Ruffa Guttierrez, visit her official website at www.ruffagutierrez.com.

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