Maria Kristina Cassandra Concepcion— or KC, by which we know her best—has lived her entire life under the glare of the spotlight; and she continues to do so with a grace she was born with. The only daughter of Megastar Sharon Cuneta-Pangilinan with actor Gabby Concepcion, KC has had access to privileges that are not easily available to many show business hopefuls, but she has never allowed herself to ride the waves of her parents’ careers in building a promising one of her own. “It was easy for me to get one foot in the door because of my background, but the real challenge here is my capacity to stay,” she shares. “When you are a ‘daughter-of ’ or a ‘son-of,’ all eyes are on you. It can be difficult to make a name for yourself because the bar is raised so high; when you are associated with people—who happen to be your parents—who did and still do great things, the public can be just as quick to harp on your failures as they are to celebrate your successes.”
Growing up, KC spent many days out of school touring the world with her mum. She admits to feeling overwhelmed by the large crowds that followed them wherever they went, but now sees the experience as a blessing because it got her used to being around people. “Because I was thrust into the limelight at a young age, I learnt to develop an appreciation for music, cinema, art, and even life under the public eye,” KC says. “Perhaps because of this exposure, life to me doesn’t feel 100 per cent complete without having the public involved to a certain extent.” And she does enjoy conversing with and learning more about others, which is why hosting events has always been one of her favourite aspects of showbiz.
Like many other celebrities, she continues to get her fair share of unpleasant encounters with detractors—supporters, even—but takes things all in her stride. In the recent years, she has elected to take a breather from showbiz, turning her attention towards other ventures, pursuing passion projects, and learning new things. Netizens were quick to jump the gun, going as far as to label her a ‘has-been’ due to her absence from the entertainment circuit. To this KC says, “It was a personal decision. I chose to step back from a world I have long been part of. I spent so many years exploring the ins and outs of show business, but at the expense of forgetting what mattered to me personally because I was so busy being so many things for other people. At the end of the day, I found myself wanting to do something for myself for a change.” Her fans need not worry, for acting will always be a part of her. In fact, KC finds acting therapeutic (“It’s nice to take a break from being KC, too.”) because she gets to step into the shoes of someone else and lead a completely different life. She hopes to get back into the groove of things this year, should the right material come around.
Of Other Passions
Early this year, KC quietly launched her jewellery line, Avec Moi by Kristina. Raised in a family of jewellery lovers—not a Sunday luncheon would go by wherein stones, carats, and colours were not part of the conversation—it was only natural that she herself would gravitate towards designing her own pieces. When she was a teenager, KC’s grandmother, the late Elaine Cuneta, would have her sketch out designs to bring to jewellers and have them made. Her first collection, comprising 26 one-of-a-kind rose-themed pieces, sold out even before the launch she hosted in March. “It was not a priority for me to announce this project to the world. Because it felt very personal, I chose to work in private behind the scenes. It was, however, gratifying to be able to share it with people whom I felt understood me best,” she adds.
KC chose the rose as her primary motif for her debut collection because she sees it as a perfect symbol for her transition to womanhood. She adds, “Aside from it being my favourite fl ower, I now feel like it has become an extension of who I am because I used it for this jewellery line. I am likely to use it as a motif in other things moving forward, but I am certainly not confining myself to just this. I don’t have all my plans for the brand set in stone just yet; I have a long way to go, a lot more to learn, and so much to more to be inspired by.”
This year also marks KC’s 10th anniversary as National Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Since 2008, she has been actively taking part in the agency’s feeding projects and relief efforts in various conflict-stricken communities in and out of the country, travelling to areas such as Uganda and Nepal to offer aid. In March, she visited Marawi with Chef Tony Boy Escalante (Antonio’s Group of Restaurants) and other WFP representatives. KC shared photographs she took with the locals on her Instagram account, stating her admiration for their resilience in the face of the war that was. She also helps fund meals for school children through an initiative called KC’s Closet, where she sells gently-used luxury items from her own wardrobe at certain times of the year.
“Nowadays, I see many young people actively supporting causes close to their hearts,” she shares. “As a UN ambassador, I have a responsibility to remind people that our agency [the WFP] exists—because people tend to forget about things that aren’t being talked about all the time—and that we have all these initiatives geared towards ending hunger and improving nutrition. My work with the WFP helps put my life into perspective; it is humbling, and it takes me away from the glitz and glamour. But as a public figure, I have learnt to leverage on my following and put it to good use. I engage people because I cannot do this alone. We need to work together to make things happen. And we need to remember that nothing happens overnight.”
A self-professed beach bum and dive enthusiast, KC also hopes to help advocate responsible tourism, especially when it comes to preserving the country’s marine life. Visits to Siargao and El Nido allowed her to see that initiatives to safeguard the environment are already in place, but she believes there is a lot more to be done. “It goes without saying that we need to look after the world we live in; and like with many things, it is easier said than done,” she adds. “When we pledge our support, it’s best to choose a select few to commit time and effort to, as well as to be structured and diligent in our ways. Also, it’s highly important to stick around for the long run because causes are not fads.”
Her show business career may have taken a backseat to other priorities in the past few years, but KC is definitely not staying idle. She will be busy with bespoke Avec Moi by Kristina orders, which have come in from all over the world. There are plans to make the pieces accessible to more buyers (though she is happy to remain a private seller for now) in the future, so jewellery enthusiasts need not fret. She looks forward to possibly putting her acting hat back on for a film; KC does miss her fans and is grateful that many still watch out for her work.
“I have never been one to rest on my laurels,” she says. “From day one, especially as a ‘daughter-of,’ I knew it was necessary that I carve out my own path in life. But over the years, I have learnt to be patient with myself and to be respectful of others. We all have our own lives, each one overwhelming in its own way, but we must remember that the kind of life we lead is not the only variant there is. I’ve met all sorts of people, and some have become so successful despite having come from nothing because they worked so hard to get to where they are. But I also enjoy being in the company of like-minded people who may have faced similar challenges as I have because in this industry, finding a kindred spirit who understands you is always a relief.”
Photography: Mark Nicdao | Production: Monique Madsen | Styling: Pam Quiñones | Set Design: Maria Parsons of Lanai and Justine Bumanlag
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