After a three-year break KC Concepcion hits refresh
Before the word “influencer” even had the slightest hint of influence, there was KC Concepcion, then a creative prodigy with celebrity-royalty pedigree, now a comeback queen with a mission, which mainly involves speeding on the highway to her most authentic self. More on that later. Right now, KC is in her makeup chair, getting dolled up with Shiseido makeup—her latest project and first makeup endorsement, ever. While raving about the brand’s cult-favorite eyelash curler, a staple in beauty editors’ vanities as well as hers, she is secretly fighting the worst case of jet lag, having just returned from a trip to New York the night before. You wouldn’t know this from her infectious energy and overall jovial temperament. As I hit record, I wondered, How to be you, KC?
For certain, this isn’t the first time anybody has asked this question. After all, KC has been in the public eye for a long time. An actress and TV darling, a household name, a pioneering blogger and perhaps the Philippines’ first-ever influencer and digital nomad, KC has always been a step ahead of the times, usually to the bewilderment of people around her. But while it seems like she makes decisions on a whim, and she definitely can afford to do so, there is a thoughtfulness to her actions that sometimes escapes the eagle-eyed public, making her a favorite among curious spectators and chismosas, alike.
Without a doubt, despite her very public persona, KC is still 100% a mystery and an unpredictable creative force. Perhaps this is the secret to her career’s longevity—like mavericks before her, she invests in periods of self-reinvention and artistic cross training. Her latest one, a three-year hiatus from show business, had just come to a close and she says, jet lag aside, she feels more refreshed than ever.
“I’m back to work and I love this job. I went on a three-year break, where I did more digital work. I’m really grateful that I got to do that and that the fans are just excited to see what I’m doing all the time. They go on these adventures with me and I get to share it all online,” KC says.
Her break, which also consisted of flying back-and-forth to the States, studying gemology and embarking on creative ventures that are still top-secret at this time, was not a decision the actress took lightly. It came with doubts and bouts of anxiety. “There is a nervousness that comes with having been 150% hardcore with your job, mainstream studio work and pulling out from that,” she shares. “I’ll be super honest, I used to have panic attacks because I didn’t know what life would be like without being on TV for three months, six months. I hate that feeling because you’re anxious for something that you shouldn’t be. That was scary, but it came to a point where I had to do it. I was going through a transition in my life where I felt that, if I didn’t do it at that time, I would never do it. I didn’t feel creative anymore. You need to give yourself some space for the process of creation, what ever it may be. You need to do something you haven’t done in a long time and I felt that was the right thing to do. It’s scary because I’m used to people telling me what to do, how to look, how to speak, what to say, what not to say, what to wear, what not to wear, and I love that life, because you don’t have to think, you just perform. But, after a while you start looking for yourself again. ‘Who am I? How do I like my eggs cooked even?’ There were things I couldn’t even answer and I think I’m not the only one who feels that way.”
It may seem like one of those so-called “rich people problems,” but problems are problems no matter what your net worth is, and it’s through this vulnerability and candidness that KC’s fans connect with her. She may lead a very different life, the kind of life that one might call “aspirational” or even “Instagrammable,” but KC remains puzzlingly relatable through it all—a trait that renders her influence timeless and, in industry jargon, organic. “I’m just a girl. There are so many things that you can relate with in my life that perhaps I just haven’t shown,” says KC. “I have this one friend who doesn’t use social media and one time he saw me posting and said, ‘Who are you even talking to? They’re not even here!’ And I told him, ‘I can’t believe people like you still exist. You’re like a dinosaur.’ [Laughs] I don’t know how many of them are into everything I talk about but it’s nice learning from them like you’re learning from your family, or your best friends.”
Naturally, being in the public eye comes with its pitfalls and KC has had her share of bashers. “The bashers are actually very helpful in a way, and I like to see it that way because there is so much that they notice na sometimes, may point,” she says. “Yes it hurts, especially with body-shaming, when they don’t even know what you’ve gone through with your body, or rumors na hindi mamatay-matay, that are just so sickening and painful. But sometimes you just have to choose your battles. I think it’s more important to encourage people that watch you, because these things happen IRL (in real life), too. For example, with body-shaming, I don’t believe that you should be 100% comfortable with being overweight. I don’t agree with anorexia either. Thank you to the bodyshamers because they get me to wake up and say, maybe it’s time to find a solution for why you’re not using weight the way you’re used to. But, the best thing I can do for people is tell them that it’s okay to be Team Thicc, as long as you’re not unhealthy. I don’t want to be telling people what to do, it’s more of being authentic to myself. If I can live this way and feel happy with my body then you can, too.”
KC’s Shiseido Must-Haves
One of KC Concepcion’s first projects since coming back from her three-year break is being the first-ever face of Shiseido makeup in the Philippines, which all started with her Instagram story about the brand. “Ever since I was in high school and college, I already knew about their eyelash curler and I’ve never really used any other eyelash curler but Shiseido’s. So I always do these shopping runs to the mall, and get the eyelash curler. The last time I did that, they were closed. I thought, ‘Well, there goes my Friday night without cute lashes.’ I decided to post it. I just post products that I really like, whether you can find them here or not. Then they sent me a whole bunch of makeup the next day because they saw my stories. I did not realize that they were going to ask me to be an endorser.”
“I rarely wear a full face of one brand, but with Shiseido I can just take everything and feel fresh,” she says. “I ended up trying the Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Foundation. Even my flight attendant cousins who use it on 16-hour flights rave about it and say that they never have to retouch. I always look for products that work for me, that I can use for years and years. Another favorite of hers is the brand’s Minimalist Whipped Powder Blush, which she uses on her cheeks and lips. Shiseido’s lipsticks are also essential, and she has a little trick to make her own custom shade and formula. “They have a matte and a balm, so usually I’ll blend two matte shades then I’ll put the balm on top,” she says. Perhaps it’s due to her illustrious family or growing up in the spotlight (or both), but it’s no wonder that KC is chock-full of beauty advice. Apart from her association with Shiseido, she has other beauty tips, such as never sleeping on one’s face. “When I was younger, my lola would wake me up to keep me from sleeping on my side,” she says. “She would put a rolled towel around my neck, so I do that, especially when I have a shoot the next day.”
Her approach to beauty is similar to her general approach to life: she’s careful and doesn’t hesitate to invest when she deems it important. “Apart from the cleansing and moisturizing and drinking water and eating well, choosing makeup with skincare is skincare. You really have to start from the root of it: the makeup that you use and the brushes that you use. If you’re wearing makeup, you wear it for about 15 hours a day, so it’s important to use the right products that will help clear your skin. This is why I’ve been a fan of Japanese makeup. Another important thing to consider are your brushes and the sponges. The tools that you use can make or break your skin. You might have to spend a tiny bit more, but that’s because the technology keeps you from putting so much pressure on your skin. It’s paying attention to the things that we don’t normally pay attention to. For me it’s about what we put on as much as it is about what we take off.”
Back To The Grind
“Fresh” is the word KC uses to describe her current disposition. The break has proven not just productive, but rejuvenating, and it has allowed her to pursue things beyond show business, just like she’s always wanted. “Some people might think I’m crazy for the choices that I make, but a lot of people understand as well. Right now I’m really happy. I feel so fresh coming back to into the grind. I’ve been busy with digital endorsements and also pursuing gemology with GIA. I’m busy with the jewelry but I’m doing that privately for now because I want to attain the right diploma before I actually go all out. I have some projects coming up, too. It’s exciting because now, I’m doing things with people that do things differently than what I’m used to in the last ten years of totally being mainstream.”
KC officially started her career at 16 years old, modeling, doing theater and being a VJ for MTV. “I was connected to people by way of blogging. I was vlogging before it was a thing! When social media came about, it was like second nature to me. In fact, I welcomed it so much. This is my world! I was in the mainstream for ten years having to learn TV and film, and now I’m just so excited to get back on it. I have that old school training and discipline but I’m just so excited to go back to digital. It’s fun and I get it and it’s totally me. But to be a hybrid of both is fantastic,” she says.
“There are so many influencers, so many people who are getting into this whole scene so easily, and I thought people like me had it easy, because of people in my family who have opened doors for us. But with this whole advent of social media influencers coming in just like that with no background, it’s amazing in one way but it’s also, like, wow! I got a lot of flack from people thinking how people like me get in easily, but one thing I learned—that I think influencers will also find out for themselves—is that it’s one thing to get in and it’s another thing to stay. I started in the digital world and now I’m coming back to where I started.”
She adds, “Yung sulit na three years of keeping to myself, mababawi ko. And I think people can maybe expect a more authentic me because I’m doing things on my own terms now, which is basically the theme of our generation. You can grow if you give yourself permission to and you champion yourself. People don’t always have to understand, but you have to come back and do something that will make them understand without explaining. You can’t just leave and leave it at that, because you’ve worked long and hard enough.”
Her genuine love for social media, engaging with fans and sharing stories, translates in her posts, but more that these, KC believes in really conversing with her followers and learning from them as well. She shares, “I have a visual diary and I take pictures and videos to remember. Just recently when I was in the States, I was in the bathroom of a restaurant washing my hands, and this girl just kept looking at me. I kept thinking, ‘Is there something on my face?’ She didn’t look Pinay. Then she went, ‘Excuse me, KC! Thank you so much for all of posts! My family and I just came from Paris and we went to all the places that you posted about and I’m just so happy that you post because I love traveling vicariously through you.’ Real people actually read this stuff! So I care for them. I wish I grew up with social media in my childhood. My mom was the sink-or-swim type, even in college she just threw me out to the sharks and made me survive. I think it was because I felt that she trusted me, but I also had to teach myself a lot of things and I had to look to my friends and read books to learn. Now we learn from each other from across the world. I wish I had that all my life.”
As our conversation comes to an end, KC tells me, “Girl, jet lag is hitting me right now.” Having just watched her Insta Stories, this doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s only been 48 hours since she landed in Manila, and already, she’s had one shoot done, and another on the way. However, by the looks of it, KC is nothing but thrilled to be here and be here, finally, again, sharing her life and work with everyone. Finally, she gives me a gift—the best closing line ever: “I feel like I’m a Ferrari that for a while was struck in traffic, and Ferraris aren’t made to be stuck in traffic. So hitting the ground running, in a way, people like me who are in the industry, they’re like Ferraris, they’re meant to be in the open and just go for it. That’s what I feel right now. For the longest time I’ve just been stuck in traffic and I’m done with that life.”