Filipina star Nadine Lustre reacts to Frida Kahlo appropriation controversy

The Filipina actress was in Dubai to attend regional premiere of new film Never Not Love Me

James Reid and Nadine Lustre. Courtesy ABS-CBN
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Filipina pop star and actress Nadine Lustre, one half of the Southeast Asian celeb pairing "Jadine" (a mash-up of names with her and her partner James Reid), has spoken out about the social media storm that followed the launch of her recent make up brand Lustrous' launch.

The new line of make up, created in partnership with Australian brand BYS and aimed at fans of the female half of the ‘Pinoy Kylie and Jason,’ has attracted criticism after it described Lustre as “a modern Frida Kahlo.”

The comparison put Lustre in the same rarified air as UK prime minister Theresa May, who attracted scorn at last year’s UK Conservative Party Conference for sporting a bracelet depicting the iconic surrealist artist, in apparent contradiction of everything she stood for. So, did Lustre feel that a disabled, disfigured, communist surrealist who famously refused to shave her facial or body hair in protest at Western constructs of femininity was a suitable, albeit dead and unconsulted, figurehead for her new brand?

“For me Frida Kahlo is an inspiration,” the actress insisted. “I love the art so that’s why we decided to use it as a peg for the makeup. I love the colours and the flowers and Frida Kahlo was the first thing that came into my conceptualization when we came up with the idea [of the make up].”

Lustre added that she was not only consulted, but closely involved, with the slightly incongruous pairing of a fresh-faced Filipina beauty queen and a cantankerous political activist in order to shift units of shimmer shades and cheek tints, so it's perhaps fortunate that she was in Dubai to promote her new film, Never Not Love Me, rather than her make up line.

The new movie tells the story of two star-crossed Filipino lovers who are separated by the need to seek work abroad, and doubtless rings true with many Filipinos here in the UAE. Lustre stars in the film with her long-term beau Reid, as she has many times before, but she insists that this film is something of a step into the unknown for the pair that fans know as "Jadine".

“It’s more mature – we’re growing as actors,” Lustre says. “I don’t just mean we’re growing old, but I think as actors it’s time for us to take the next step. We’re really excited because this is so much different from our old films. Most of the lines were improvised so that’s why it’s so real. Most of time we work on script before we do a scene, but this time, the story is there, there’s a backbone to the story, but it’s a collaboration. I think sometimes when you plan too much ahead you can overact, and in this movie we didn’t want that.”

Lustre was greeted at Dubai Mall’s Vox cinemas by hundreds of Filipina fans, some of whom had taken the day off work to queue up for a meet and greet and meet their heroine, and the actress was clearly touched by the situation.

"I'm so excited to be here," she gushed. "Last time I was here was August, and I'm really grateful to all the fans who have come, I'm really excited to see everyone. I've really missed you and there are and so many other movies showing here in Dubai, and so many celebrities who come through here. I'm super excited and I'm also excited for everyone to see the movie."
As for the movies themes of love, separation and timeless dedication, Lustre had a few simple words of advice for Overseas Filipina Workers who may be going through a similar situation to her character, Joanne.

"Keep everything simple, don’t make it complicated and don’t stress to make your relationship work,” she suggested. “There’s so much stress. If the relationship isn’t working, then just don’t push it. You can’t really force it, so don’t. A relationship is either working or it’s not. The only thing that helps is trust.”

Read more:

Nadine Lustre and James Reid wrap shoot in London

Delays beset new Nadine Lustre-James Reid film