Before Kris Bernal answers a question, she lowers her head and pauses. The first time she does it, you’ll probably have the urge to prod, but after a while, you’ll realize that you don’t have to. For all the excitement she exudes when she speaks, her words are measured, and that’s when you realize that the thirty-year-old actress and cosmetics CEO knows exactly what she’s doing.
Her dive into the beauty industry is a story she has shared time and again: Kylie Jenner’s lipstick line has inspired her love for lipsticks, which later on, developed into a need to create her own. But while it’s fairly common for a celebrity to cross into the field of cosmetic production, it was a bold move and a risk for Kris, as she had to do everything on her own.
“Ako lahat gumagawa,” she says earnestly in the studio as the team prepped for the shoot ahead. “Naisip ko, I’ll look for a manufacturer. ‘Yon ‘yong pinaka-mahirap sa lahat, kasi, there’s… Japan, there’s U.S., there’s China, and then I tried different formulas. Nag-research talaga ako, and the hardest was I did all the work… Wala akong katulong.”
She recalls having to test samples on her own until she decided to settle with a Korean manufacturer. “It’s so expensive, and every peso talaga came from my own pocket… As in from my own savings, so ang hirap-hirap maglabas ng pera. Just with five products, in all honesty, I spent millions.”
Kris did not have a partner or a team to back her up while she was conceptualizing what was to be SHE Cosmetics, a brand with five liquid lipstick shades which she hopes to grow in the coming years. “Kaya nga ‘pag tinanong nila, ‘Bakit lima lang ‘yong nilabas mo, bakit ‘yan lang, why is it not a collection,’ sinasabi ko, ‘Kasi ang mahal-mahal!’ I’m sure ‘yong ibang beauty brands, or ‘yong mga may celebrity na cosmetics, may mga investors sila or parang sampu sila in the business. They have their own offices, they have their own teams, pero sa akin kasi, ako lang lahat…"
Not shying away from the topic, the actress shares that she has always experienced being compared to other celebrities who have released bigger lines.
“’Yong akin limang products lang… Siyempre lahat sila they’re big companies. I hope din na [customers] understand na I’m the only one handling this, na I’m really starting small. Na ganito lang talaga. Pero one thing that I’m proud of, is I’m the only celebrity [who has started] everything from scratch."
“I named it SHE because I wanted girls to relate to my story, that SHE can do it."
It wasn’t something that held her back, though. In fact, nothing did, even when it came a point when almost no one supported her lofty goal.
“Even ‘yong family ko was against it, na parang, ‘Are you sure that you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on just lipsticks? Ni hindi mo alam if mauubos mo...’
“I named it SHE because I wanted girls to relate to my story, that SHE can do it,” she explains. “Kaya mo ‘yan kahit maraming challenges or marami kang pagdadaanan… There was a time na wala akong kakampi, pero dahil dream kong magka-lipstick line, pinush ko, and it happened. So I want females to relate to that story, na even if it’s just you, as long as the passion is there, as long as you believe in your product, it’s going to happen.”
Prior to starting the business, however, she admits that she had a different outlook when it came to spending and managing her finances.
“Yon ‘yong hindi ko ma-control. Mahilig akong bumili ng mga luxury items.” A fan of designer bags, she couldn’t help but make purchases every month. “Pero natutunan ko rin na sabi sa ‘kin ng mom ko, after ng five to seven days, balikan mo kung gusto mo pa. ‘Yon ‘yong lagi kong ina-apply… Tapos, iisipin ko, ‘I’ll just save the money for my business.’
“Ngayon, nand’on na ko, e. Before, mas magastos talaga ako. Pero simula noong nag-business ako, parang mas gusto kong mag-invest na lang d’on, so hindi na ko masyadong gumagastos ngayon.”
In fact, she sold off several of her expensive bags. “I sold some of my luxury items, not because I don’t have enough funds, pero para sure lang ako na hindi ako mauubusan. There was a time talaga na ang dami kong binentang bags. Ang dami kong binentang gamit ko… para lang mabuo ko ‘yong SHE Cosmetics.”
As the brand is her baby, she has very high standards when it comes to quality and is nothing but hands-on in the company’s daily workings. “Gusto kong nakikitang lahat,” she laughs, recalling a time when she did have an employee. “Nagkaroon ako ng tao, pero dahil sobrang OC ko, parang okay naman ‘yong gawa niya, pero...” she trails off, saying, “Mas gusto ko na ako ‘yong gumagawa.”
And when Kris says that she wants to do things herself, she’s not just talking about commandeering the boat—she rows it. From product conceptualization, to production, to marketing, to public relations, and even sometimes, delivering products to her own customers, the actress says that she has done and is still doing it all, and she makes it work.
"Hindi porket artista ka, pa-special ka."
“Naka-schedule ako. Mayroon akong pocket calendar. I plan my week, I stick to it, na dapat magawa ko lahat.” Of course, being a celebrity, there are bound to be scheduling conflicts, but Kris knows the value of sticking to her calendar and keeping her word. “Minsan kapag may mga pumapasok na trabahong biglaan, then may meeting ako with a company, parang, ‘Sorry, kasi nirerespeto ko ‘yong oras na ‘to e.’ So kailangan kong i-cancel… ‘yong work ko because nakapag-set ako ng meeting for SHE.
“Naiintindihan ko kasi ‘yong profession and work nila… Ito ‘yong oras nila, binigay nila sa ‘kin, so pupunta ako. Hindi porket artista ka, pa-special ka, e, na parang ‘Ay hindi ako available’ or ‘Magka-cancel ako bigla, last minute.’ Hindi ako gan’on.
“Dito sa business, na-realize ko kung gaano kaimportante rin ‘yong time ng mga tao.”
That being said, she admits that doing everything on her own is both her biggest accomplishment and frustration.
“Minsan talaga nalulungkot ako dahil hindi ako kasing all-out ng other brands na may marketing, may team talaga. Every department, they have. Nalulungkot ako kasi hindi ko ma-boost ‘yong product ko.”
This has brought about a few personal compromises. “Medyo nag-tipid ako sa sarili ko… Feeling ko [self-care] din ‘yong na-sacrifice ko.”
She still strives to indulge in downtimes, browsing through shopping sites, but she admits that she can’t sit still for long periods. “’Pag wala na akong magawa, gusto ko may gagawin ako. For example, kakatapos ng show ko na ‘Hanggang sa Dulo ng Buhay Ko,’ tapos smooth naman si SHE... parang gusto ko ulit magbukas ng business,” she laughs. “Gan’on ako kalikot!”
And it’s true—in between set-ups during her photoshoot, Kris would squeeze in as much work as she could, uploading photos and videos, posting on social media, and all-in-all just maintaining SHE, as well as her personal brand as a celebrity.
“My bread and butter is still my my showbiz career,” she says, and while wearing many hats often ends up in sleepless nights, she still has her sights on diversifying SHE. In fact, she reveals a new product for the brand is in the works. “Mag-re-release ako ng bagong product… Kaya nga sabi ko, hindi ko na i-re-reproduce ‘yong lipsticks ko kapag-naubos na. Kasi ‘pag nag-release ako ng bago then I reproduce, it’s too expensive na naman. It’s really just one at a time muna.”
The product, which will hopefully launch mid-December, will be a bit expensive, but she explains that it’s only because she can’t sacrifice quality. “With SHE, ‘yon ‘yong gusto kong i-establish na it’s always quality talaga. Hindi na lang ako mag-re-release, kung hindi ko ma-a-achieve ‘yong quality na gusto ko.”
The celebrity entrepreneur also reveals hearing positive feedback from customers is one of her bigggest motivators. “Masaya kasi whenever you hear great feedback, and you know that you’re selling quality, and hindi ka nangloloko ng tao. Alam mong papatok, alam mong bebenta, and then you hear great feedback. ‘Yon ‘yong nakakagana.”
Kris believes in the power of a good product—“Ang daming mga local brands ngayon na even if walang celebrity endorsement, but because ang gaganda ng products, it brought them places”—and setting the bar high for herself, she plans to turn SHE into a sustainable business with a physical store a few years down the line.
At the end of the shoot, Kris is the last person to leave the studio. “May gagawin lang ako, 15 minutes,” she quips, before disappearing into the glam room to work.
If there’s one thing you can learn from Kris Bernal, it’s that no matter what you do, you have to respect the hustle.
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SHOOT COORDINATION: Louise Ferrer
PHOTOGRAPHY: Julian Rodriguez
ART DIRECTION: Jico Joson
HAIR STYLIST: Nikko Bruel
MAKEUP ARTIST: Carissa Medved
FASHION STYLIST: Van Mercado
ASSISTED BY: Patricia Melliza
SPECIAL THANKS TO: GMA Artist Center