COVER: Can It Girls truly have it all?

Martin Yambao - The Philippine Star
COVER: Can It Girls truly have it all?
In equal parts, Isabelle Daza, Georgina Wilson, Liz Uy and Solenn Heussaff are human. They’re insecure, they’re relatable, they’re catty, they’re sincere, and you could bet your butt they could throw a really good bitch fit. Who wouldn’t pay to see that?

MANILA, Philippines - It’s easy to get obsessed with these four women. I fell down that rabbit hole.

Four women, four friends — Georgina Wilson, Isabelle Daza, Liz Uy, and Solenn Heussaff — grouped up and given one very simple brief: to be the stars of their very own reality TV show.

It was a short three days before the project’s initial shooting date when I first sat down with the small cast and crew. I signed onto the project as half babysitter, half continuity supervisor, on the suggestion of my friend and professional contact Liz Uy. I knew her — but apart from the hundreds and hundreds of endorsements, the professional roles as actresses, hosts and models, the monthly magazine covers, and the #GoalsAF domination of social media — that was it. I knew little else about the other girls.

I knew Georgina Wilson as the cut-throat diva with impossibly high standards and a closet to-die-for; Isabelle Daza as fitness mogul and as talented actress (with a penchant for crazy roles) diagnosed with a permanent case of resting-bitch-face; Solenn Heussaff, multi-hyphenate actress, artist, singer, dancer, designer, the ubiquitous and perfect — and some might say, too perfect — jill-of-all-trades. And then there’s Liz, the career-driven high-powered stylist I’ve known and followed. 

I sat there listening to them talk about their plans, discussing their goals for the show, corralling their ideas into timelines and schedules — and just right then it started to hit me. Everything I suspected I knew about them was true: Georgina doggedly won’t settle for anything but the best when it comes to the people she’s willing to work with; Isabelle is the straightest talker you’ll ever meet (and also, the funniest); Solenn’s schedule is booked from now to early 2017; and Liz can disarm you with the most infectious laugh. And yet, without sounding trite, I could see that they still had so so much more to give by way of access.

Unwittingly, I already became a fan of the show before we even started filming. You could have heard me say, “These women are crazy,” and in the same breath, “they’re totally just like us.” In equal parts, they’re human, they’re insecure, they’re relatable, they’re catty, they’re sincere, and you could bet your butt they could throw a really good bitch fit. Who wouldn’t pay to see that?   

* * *

The nature of reality TV is that everything you see happens post-fact. To wit, we shot and edited the show just a little over two months before the premiere date (Oct. 24 on E! Asia b*tches). But by the nature of their celebrity, what you’ll see happening to George, Belle, Liz and Sos has already been liked and shared to the tune of hundreds of thousands on every social media platform you could imagine.

We already know about the Snapchat scandal, the wedding in Tuscany and the baby gender reveal — but the plot points aren’t why you should be tuning in every Monday. What you’ll see is the dynamic behind the friendships that happen behind each of those events, their relationships with their partners, their stories as a group. It’s the sincerity and support system that took them through every hardship and heartbreak they’ve endured in the past decade, working under the public gaze. “I think the show will take them places far beyond what their social media allows,” shares show director Raymond Gutierrez, “it takes you into their homes, it takes you into private conversations with their partners, it’ll show you what they’re really going through.”

“The girls can be playful and catty at times but behind all of that is a really strong foundation of friendship,” he continues, “and the sincerity they have in lifting each other up, inspiring each other to do better. That’s really what the message here is, I think, that successful people, more so women, can be there for each other.” It’s the success and failures we all go through, the support to stall your personal life in favor of white-hot career growth, the joys and insecurities of motherhood, the incessant nature of showbiz, and the intricacies of fickle social media. It Girls is real life — what people don’t know, what people don’t see about these women. It’s about unfiltered access and their journey towards the next step.

“On top of your insane schedule, what made you say yes to the show?” I ask the artist and busy actress Solenn Heussaff, “I wanted It Girls to show women that this is 2016, and that they can be themselves. That they can find their own character,” replies Sos, “it’s so hard to find your identity when you’re on social media and you’re comparing yourself to everything little thing around you. When you’re being put down by people you don’t actually know. I want the show to tell this generation of women that having a good group of friends you can rely on, that you can be inspired from, can make the difference in your life.” Solenn’s narrative follows her recent marriage to boyfriend-turned-fiancé-turned-husband of six years, Nico Bolzico, and the way she manages her non-stop work commitments in tandem with little time she has to spend at home.    

“Syempre, I’m not like these other gorgeous girls,” Liz says, bleary from a 16-hour red-eye flight from Paris to Manila and straight to set for her last day of shooting, “they’re used to being shot, used to being in front of a camera — when the reality of my life is behind-the-scenes, I easily get awkward. And that was a challenge.”

It Girls follows Liz as she navigates her day-to-day between running her business, styling regional campaigns and claiming her seat at the table during the four-week gauntlet known as fashion month. This is Liz at her most driven and relentless when it comes to building her career — surrounded by three friends who are all, if not almost, married, the question becomes; will she or won’t she settle down anytime soon? Or should she strike while the iron is hot? A blind date, a trip to a gay bar, and a host of conflicting advice later —”sometimes, life can just get in the way. You know?” Liz would ask. Can an It Girl truly have it all?

“I never actually thought I’d be part of a reality show,” confesses Georgina Wilson, “while I love watching reality TV and will never get tired of The Kardashians and the Real Housewives, I feel that I’ve always been such a private person.” One could say George takes the biggest leap on It Girls with the reveal of her pregnancy with her husband Arthur Burnand. “When I decided this might be something fun to do with my friends, “ she continues, “I still had a lot of hesitation, but what really motivated me was the idea of It Girls being a cool and powerful platform for us to air our thoughts and ideas; as women, as professionals, as wives and especially as an expectant mother. It just felt like such a progressive thing to do.”

“Life doesn’t have to stop just because you’re getting married, or having a baby,” agrees Isabelle Daza, “I don’t know if that comes from a conservative culture, or an unforgiving culture, or a sawain culture — but the last thing I want to do is underestimate our audience. People now are wiser, it’s 2016; and I want this show to empower women, to prove to ourselves and to each other, that life can go on. You can be a homemaker and still play certain roles, you can still work, you can still thrive.”

Having recently lost her father some months before her wedding to fiancé Adrien Semblat, the show follows Belle as she deals with her upcoming Tuscan wedding on top of many, many unexpected mishaps. From assistants losing very important documents, to demanding work schedules, to sudden health issues, you name it, It Girls would probably have Belle power through it with a smile and the snap of a joke. “Doing the show was going to be a challenge, obviously, especially after everything I’ve just gone through. But I wanted to do the show because it was going to be with all of my friends — and you don’t get this opportunity more than once. A lot of people think we have it easy, but what people don’t see is the amount of work we do to get where we are,” says the actress, “started from the bottom.” Belle’s story forms one of the more dramatic arcs in It Girls — coming off of what could be the heaviest time of her life, to dealing with the minutiae of fixing a wedding, to her Bellechorette in Bali, and to the great joy of seeing all their friends come together for the series finale in Italy.

It Girls promises a good time for its first season: “You’ll see what we bicker about, the fun we like to have together,” gushes Georgina, “and also, all our husbands think they’re actually the stars of the show so you’ll be seeing lots of them.” The show highlights the friendship and the drama that surround these four friends and confidantes — all without sacrificing its weight in social commentary.

* * *

The airing of a reality show (premiering on Monday, Oct. 24, across 27 countries on E! Asia) comes at an opportune time when we’re seeing these women move on to the next chapter in their lives. From having started out more than 10 years ago, as young models and muses, artists and actresses, fashion assistants and stylists; to empire builders and style icons, wives and mothers, to the endless barrage of hashtags filed under #FriendshipGoals, #WeddingGoals, #LifeGoals, the list goes on — this is their reality and down the rabbit hole you go, welcome to “It Girls.”


Tweet the author @martinpanduh






Special thanks to RAYMOND GUTIERREZ


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