The biggest fashion influencer in the Philippines and global style icon opens up about letting go of perfection, why she doesn’t like to be labeled, and the business of fashion
This is an excerpt from MEGA’s February 2024 cover story.
Bigger. It’s a word that comes up often, in many forms, when something—a year, a project, an idea—is at its genesis. But in an era that is consumed by social media, what does it mean to be bigger? When one has, for instance, tens of millions of followers, how does one become bigger? How does one begin anything again?
Heart Evangelista, who has more than 13 million followers on Instagram alone, knows the answers all too well. The trick, she says, is to treat whatever comes knocking on her door as a beginning—an opportunity to take on bigger challenges.
“I never say that anything is an ‘ending,’ which makes me emotional,” she says. “Even if it’s the end of a friendship, I don’t think of it as the end. I always think of it as the beginning of something. Beginnings are sweet. I don’t like the word ‘ending.’ I feel like there’s only one time for things to end and that’s when, well, it’s all supposed to end. But everything in life is like a beginning for me.”
An actress since she was pre-teen, Evangelista took a break from making TV shows and movies to pursue an idea that was larger than she could ever imagine: becoming an influential force in the world of fashion, not just in the Philippines but all over the world.
The choice of career is in harmony with her selfhood: Fashion is an industry that always aims to go bigger. Even the trend of “quiet luxury” has to be so big that those who are loudly expressing the need to live such life come in droves. But it is also an industry that tries to acclimate to the changing times, not without failure or flaws, but it tries. Then, sometimes, an idea becomes too big, too out-of-the-box, that it can lose its relatability. When that happens, everything needs to come at least near the proverbial box again.
Going bigger is a complex story, in general, because it always has to be rooted in the beginning, in its core—when things were simpler and “smaller.” Or else, people won’t be able to connect with the brand or its loyal audience anymore.
“Going bigger means taking the risk of just being unapologetically yourself,” Evangelista says. “I think in this day and age, perfection is, in a sense, still what’s normal on Instagram. The real game changer is just being your authentic self because there’s no one like you.”
She adds, after careful thought, “Perfection is not of this world. I used to be so hard on myself. I had to be good at everything, finish everything on a certain deadline, and have this timeline. I threw that all out the window because they held me back. I played fast and loose with what I did. Then, I got everything I wanted, but I still wasn’t happy because it was never good enough. It was never big enough, even though you’re actually doing what you’ve always dreamed of doing. And I want to be happy. I want to enjoy what I do again. Now, I feel like I’ve fallen in love with it again.”
THE BUSINESS OF DRESSING UP
The thing about growing is that it requires a more intricate master plan, and at this stage, most of the time, it is harder to just “wing it.”
Evangelista has come to realize this reality quite recently.
“Even if you want to be as organic as possible, at the end of day, it’s a business,” she says. “You’ve got flights, you have people to take care of, you have your team, and all that. I always go back to the drawing board with my husband, and we think, ‘Okay, so how much did you spend on all of this? Have you been getting your money back?’ I didn’t have that before; I just did it because I loved it—the hell if the money came back. But now, it’s different. As we get older, we become more responsible.”
Since she travels a lot, being financially sound all the time comes in handy. It can be remembered, for instance, that Evangelista invested in her own place in Paris so it’s easier to move things around whenever she needs to be at the big events, like Fashion Weeks.
Photography BJ PASCUAL. Creative Direction PATRICK TY. Art Direction BRIE VENTURA. Styling ELDZS MEJIA. Style Assistants CARL ALBERTO, MELS TIANO, and MIKA GANZON. Makeup MEMAY FRANCISCO. Hair GHIL SAYO. Nails EXTRAORDINAIL. Sittings Editors PEEWEE REYES-ISIDRO, BAM ABELLON, and AGOO AZCUNA BENGZON. Fashion Assistant BITHIA REYES. Shot on location RED APPLE MANILA. Special thanks to IZA SIM