After a day of taping, actress Ria Atayde sat down with me on a Zoom call. I knew her from the magazine covers and liquor calendars —a headstrong body positivity advocate who never shied away from difficult questions. I’m only on the outside looking in, but anyone knows showbiz is not the most forgiving of industries. I asked Ria if she sometimes clamors for control over her own image.
“Because I’m so vocal, I’ve already kind of taken over that,” she said, unfazed as always. Ah, I thought to myself. Of course. It was a joy to discover, then, that Ria’s strength is rooted in softness and vulnerability, that it is through letting people in that she is able to stand her ground. Here, the actress talks about using her platform, overcoming her insecurities, and her advice on how other women can own their imperfections and celebrate themselves.
THE PHILIPPINE STAR: You’re very vocal about your advocacies and the things you’re passionate about. Why is it important for you to speak out and use your platform this way?
RIA ATAYDE: There are a lot of things that should be talked about but aren’t given enough attention or time. I like to think I’m in a position like this for a bigger purpose—para saan pang nandito ako if it’s not to somehow make a change, as cliche or as self-righteous as that may sound. It’s really the idea that I’m doing something beyond myself.
Do you feel there’s inherent value in being vulnerable and that maybe being true to yourself is like an advocacy in itself?
Definitely. I feel like vulnerability is what makes us human. Sharing your vulnerability with other people makes them also share themselves with you, and I think there’s so much beauty in that. It’s hard to be vulnerable, but you learn so much about yourself and about other people.
Sometimes celebrity culture can put you on a pedestal, and people can forget that, at the end of the day, you’re also human. That does ruin the illusion, but that is the reality. So when you share your vulnerability, it makes you a lot more human to the people you want to reach.
In terms of being honest, for me personally, especially being a woman, I tend to water myself down to seem more approachable and friendly. Do you ever feel the same way?
I have been blessed with a solid support system that has always allowed me to speak my mind and be open about how I feel. It does scare me to share things about myself or my opinions – because it can be intimidating especially when people have something to say about it – but I go back to having a solid support system. They’re so generous in terms of giving me space to be myself and speak my mind, and that’s all I really need. And because I’ve been given that opportunity within my circle, I feel like it’s something I could do as well on a larger scale.
How can we be the kind of person who cultivates that kind of environment for other people?
How I deal with people is I share a part of myself, and in doing so, they feel as though they can share a part of themselves as well. I always say this to my younger cousins: “Kung tatakas kayo, let me know.” I want to harbor an environment of openness and trust. And to be the person na people are open with, I think you also have to be open.
How do you stay true to yourself in an industry where your story is often out of your hands, both in the context of being an actress playing different characters and being in the public eye where so many versions of you exist in the minds of people?
It’s finding your core, something that keeps you grounded. And I’m so blessed that I have a solid support system that keeps me grounded and I never lose sight of who I am. When it comes to acting, (in every role you do) there has to be some truth in it. There has to be some humanity in you that resonates with your character kahit ibang-ibang siya sa personality mo. I think, internally naman, it’s a mindset thing. My number one belief is that everything is a choice, and it’s your choice to remain true to yourself and to not have things affect you.
In the span of your career, can you share a moment when you felt really vulnerable, where you were telling your truth and you realized it doesn’t feel as scary as you would think?
When they started opening up discussions about body positivity. I remember there was an interview I did in 2017 or 2018, and I got teary-eyed because it was the first time I was openly saying na I know we’re in an industry that’s so particular about how you look externally, and I do get bashed for my weight and how I look. That was the first time I got to talk about my insecurities.
“Sometimes celebrity culture can put you on a pedestal, and people can forget that, at the end of the day, you’re also human.”
It allowed me to realize na it’s okay to talk about these things. It humanizes you. I also realized na, personally, if I had seen more people talking about insecurities like that, maybe I would have felt a lot more normal growing up.
How do you feel that right now, you can be that person to someone else, that right now someone out there is feeling so much more normal because they see you on TV and covers of magazines?
I’m grateful. Throughout my career, this is one of the greatest wins that I had, being able to inspire people to embrace themselves and accept themselves and celebrate themselves.
What advice can you give to other young women, whether they’re in showbiz or not, who may be struggling to speak up and stay true to who they are?
Embracing every part of you and celebrating your imperfections will make you feel a lot more comfortable with yourself. I feel like, once you start to accept yourself, everybody else will follow. Because when you’re super insecure and people point it out, you’ll hate yourself and they see it too. I know it’s easier said than done, but surround yourself with the people that actually love you and embrace you for who you are, and eventually the rest will follow.