“He just does his thing. He doesn’t really care about other people’s opinions of him. That’s one of the things I admire about him.”
Thus said actress-beauty queen Maureen Wroblewitz in response to Inquirer Entertainment’s question about what makes her click with singer-songwriter JK Labajo, her boyfriend of two years.
“I always say opposites attract,” said the Filipino-German actress. “We’re opposite of each other but then we kind of complement each other, too. He can be very loud sometimes, while I’m timid because I want to reserve my energy. He is the kind of person who likes to take on the conversation when we’re outside. I just let him have that.” Musicians think very differently, Maureen observed. “I love art. I used to draw and paint. Seeing him and seeing how creative he is with his songwriting amazes me. I guess with him, my creative side comes out as well,” she explained.
“He thinks out-of-the-box. He doesn’t want to fit into a mold. He wants to live his life the way that he wants to. He always wants to be himself—that’s one thing that I learned from him,” pointed out Maureen, who is currently an ABS-CBN contract artist. “I’m now trying to get out of my comfort zone even more. I’m now really pushing myself and not trying to just fit in because that’s one thing that I wanted to do while growing up—to please everyone. “I learned from him that the comments that should matter are from people who matter to me. I have to remind myself of that all the time, and he is kind of a reminder of that,” the 23-year-old said.
Maureen had a 30-minute chat with Inquirer Entertainment where she also bravely talked about how she battled mental illness as a teenager, how she coped with her mom’s breast cancer and her eventual death, and her experience competing in the 2021 Miss Universe Philippines pageant where she eventually placed first runner-up.
Excerpts from our chat:
Will you try to win the crown again next year? If yes, what do you think you should improve on?
What was funny was that on the day of the coronation, I told one of the girls that this was my first and last pageant, but I’m still 23, I might still change my mind. I do see a lot of things I can
improve on like my walk and maybe a little bit on my conviction when I speak.
What have you learned from competing in “Asia’s Next Top Model” that you were able to apply to the beauty pageant?
It’s ‘fake it till you make it.’ It’s not as bad as it sounds. I only use it to describe the confident persona that comes out when I’m on stage or in front of the camera. It’s this person that is totally me but only comes out when I have to be in difficult situations.
Dealing with your mom’s cancer, and eventually, her death, are both painful experiences. You were still too young then. What did the whole journey leave you with?
When I lost my mom, I had lost my best friend. I was left feeling confused. There was also a time when I lost my faith in God. I remember feeling so alone that I reached a point when I didn’t want to live anymore. I felt her presence throughout this journey. She would give me a lot of signs. She advocated for breast cancer awareness when she was still alive. She was a volunteer at I Can Serve. Today, I also work with I Can Serve so that I can save lives, too.
You’re very vocal about dealing with anxiety and depression. How did that start for you and what are you doing about it?
I just felt like I didn’t want to live anymore. I would look in the mirror and would say ‘I hate my life’ or ‘I’m ugly.’ It took me really long to get over that because, after my mom passed away, I also had to deal with an eating disorder. I lost a lot of weight, unwillingly… I was just 13. I’m so glad that I had my younger sister, who I am very close to. She was the one who told my parents and I was able to get professional help.
My dad also gave me this book. The first chapter talks about this guy who doesn’t have any legs and arms. He talks about this experience of him wanting to drown himself in the bathtub, but he was so glad that he didn’t. Now, he’s so successful and is able to help and inspire so many people as a motivational speaker. After reading that, I remember thinking, I’m still young and I have not lived my life yet.
Being born and growing up in Saudi and then transferring to Germany seemed to be a major adjustment. Can you share something about that time in your life?
I lived in Saudi Arabia for 12 years. When we went to Germany, it had been the first time for me to be the new kid. It was nerve-wracking because I remember not being good at German yet.
I fell into a toxic friendship for two years. This girl took advantage of me… and that was one of the reasons I got into a very dark place. Finally, there was one girl, Ina, who helped me get out of that toxic friendship. She eventually became my best friend.
It was really hard adjusting to a new culture because I grew up in a family that is very Filipino. I also knew about the culture in Saudi Arabia but wasn’t familiar with German culture. There were a lot of things that I had to get used to and it took me two years to come out of my shell.
You have been living in the Philippines for five years now. What’s that like so far?
My mom made sure we can understand Tagalog, but I only started speaking the language in 2019. I’m really more comfortable with Tag-lish. While growing up in those places, I always knew that I wanted to live in the Philippines, that it’s my home, that I wanted to move here. I always felt more connected to the Philippines and its culture.
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