Friday ∗ 27 Jun 2008

KC and skin whitening

That we are enamored by KC Concepcion is understandable. It’s not so much that we saw her grow up, or that she’s the girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth – many other young stars are the same. We find her interesting because in the past, she remained distinctly resistant to the idea of the limelight, having one-foot-in-one-foot-out of the showbiz industry she was born into.

The uniqueness of KC’s star creation though lies in her and her handler’s ability to keep her in our consciousness despite her absence from this limelight. Add to this the refusal to keep her in the comfy box her mother Sharon Cuneta’s fame would’ve allowed her, and KC just kept us all curious, to say the least.

Beyond her mother’s shadow

So we come to know KC as a teenager acting, singing and dancing in stage musicals versus television. Upon turning 18, we saw KC’s debut celebration, and are allowed a glimpse of someone who isn’t shallow or superficial. She chooses handmade products by unwed mothers (or was it orphans?) from a local shelter, for her giveaways. She’s also deemed imperfect – still with baby fat, and not reed thin as 18-year-old celebrities tend to look these days.

She then surprised everyone, not just by choosing college over a showbiz career (how rare is that these days?), but by wanting to leave home and go independent. Soon after leaving for Paris, KC started appearing more often on TV commercials.

In the TV special used to reintroduce her, From Paris to Pinas, KC is rendered, not as her mother’s daughter, but as an adult with her own set of responsibilities. She was portrayed as a regular everyday person in Paris and elsewhere, who’s also a compassionate Pinay. In Paris, KC befriends an overseas Filipino worker, a cleaning lady of one of her friends.

And so the stage was set for the kind of star KC was going to be: with feet firmly on the ground, a sense of self and independence distinct from her mother, and a good dose of social consciousness. With such a pretty face to boot, KC was more than just covergirl material. Her star was perfectly created as role model material.

Advertising becomes KC

For this generation of stars, doing commercials has meant credibility, and the number of product endorsements a celebrity has is not just a measure of her fame, as it is a measure of her life. If KC’s advertisements on television are any indication, then while her life is not cookie-cutter, it’s close to being perfectly clean-cut.

She sells everything on television (multivitamins, shampoo, vaginal wash, a broadband company), and in print (digital cameras, clothes). In many of these ads, her image as independent woman is recreated and confirmed; sometimes, as with clothing brand Bayo, her being Filipina is sold as well.

It’s hard to argue with KC’s need to sell products, particularly given the kind of mother she has – Cuneta sells everything from pancit canton (with husband Sen. Francis Pangilinan) to ice cream (with youngest daughter Miel), and yes, vaginal wash, too. Given current showbiz, where a pretty face can make you the next big star regardless of talent, doing commercials seems like one of those silver spoons KC’s had in her mouth all this time.

Advertisements and star creation

Undoubtedly, it’s also these endorsements that allow for her first foray into acting, the I Am KC drama specials that ran for a month, to earn money. Watching the show, you barely have time to breathe among the various images of KC – from her TV role to her many commercials. Here, the combo of TV show (and specials) and advertisements clearly mix.

She’s even able to do it for more worthy causes. Who knew of the U.N. Feeding Program and the Virlanie Foundation before KC? Because of all those product endorsements, she seems to be selling everything she stands for as well. And in this time of crises, she has to be given credit for wanting to feed children and keep them in school. It’s more than many actresses her age are doing after all.

Limits to her selling powers

But selling a whitening product? For someone like KC, whose fair complexion is well-documented by a life on television, it’s a stretch. And one wonders why she even needs to sell this product at all. Of all her endorsements, this one actually runs counter to everything that KC stands for: from social consciousness to independence, a sense of self to having feet firmly on the ground.

Because to sell skin whitening is to insist on discontent, if not unacceptability – you need to be whiter not darker, fairer not morena. It seems farthest from what KC would want to sell, given the Pinay pride that she celebrates often and the self-confidence she espouses.

And at a time when actresses, athletes – even senators! – make money out of selling products, wouldn’t it be the greatest thing to see KC saying no to certain endorsements? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to hear KC say that loving the skins we’re in is the best thing, regardless of its color? Given the kindof star and role model that she is, this isn’t only a small price for KC to pay, it’s also a well-founded expectation.

Posted in: iconography, kapitalista, kawomenan, kultura, star creation, TV

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