International film star Rachel Grant has always known that she wanted to act. Brought up in a musical family that introduced her to The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music when she was five years old, she knew at a young age that what she wanted to do for the rest of her life was perform. Years later, Rachel has become a world-class actress, acting alongside the likes of Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond movie Die Another Day as the first ever Filipina Bond girl.
Rachel talks about her audition for the Bond movie with candor. As an actress, she tells FN, she prides herself in being unique at auditions. For her casting call for Die Another Day, she entered the audition hall in a pink Chinese-style dress and gamely performed a martial arts demo with her nunchakus (popularly known as nunchucks). Four days later, she was on the set with Pierce Brosnan, having snagged the role of the Chinese-British assassin Peaceful Fountains of Desire.
Rachel felt very comfortable and confident on the set, which she says was partly due to co-star Brosnan’s warm and charming personality. “Pierce and I chatted a lot,” she recalls fondly. “He asked me where I was from. I mentioned Nottingham in England, at which he said, ‘Actually, I meant, where do you get your good, exotic looks from?’ Before I could say anything, he uttered, ‘The Philippines?’”
More than just the camaraderie, Rachel valued her Bond experience in its entirety. “As Peaceful, I actually felt I couldn’t wait to meet 007 himself,” the actress shares. “In my scene, as soon as he opened the presidential suite door, I felt completely drawn into another world—the world of James Bond. It was awesome, and it felt good. It was a wonderfully weird experience, and I felt very privileged to be part of the world’s most famous and successful film franchise.”
Given her role as the mysterious yet powerful Peaceful and her own confidence and down-to-earth manner, we asked Rachel to share her secret for becoming a strong, successful woman. Her matter-of-fact response was: “Being independent and unique with one’s thoughts and ideas. Being bold, taking risks, and never giving up. Embracing criticism and seeing it as a positive—that you were noticed and commented on—perhaps because you are doing something out of the ordinary or that you only need to improve [on] and make yourself better.”
REJECTION MAKES THE HEART GROW STRONGER
The road to success, however, was not without its potholes and speed bumps. Rachel had to move alone from England to the USA, knowing no one, for the sake of her craft. In the harsh world of acting, Rachel’s exotic beauty often worked against her, preventing her from being given serious roles. “I recall walking into an audition once,” she says, “and the casting director asked me if I could read. I do enjoy playing glamorous roles, but I would just as much love to play an ogre.”
Rejection, success’s ever-present shadow, reared its ugly head time and again, but Rachel kept her chin up and always looked on the bright side. “At one time, I kept every rejection letter I got,” she shares. “I had a thick pile of them, and I would actually get excited every time I received one. It only pushed me to do more, to improve, and to be greater with my achievements and goals.” This frame of mind is something she credits her mentors for instilling in her throughout the years.
One such inspiring influence is her first dance teacher in Nottingham, Nora Morrison. “She taught brilliant expression through performance, how to overcome obstacles, and that anything is possible with practice and hard work,” Rachel says. “Incredibly, she even taught the deaf and blind to dance to music.” At present, Morrison is 93 and still teaches from her wheelchair. This June 2010, she made it to the Queen’s Honours list for her service to the UK, joining the likes of Catherine Zeta–Jones and Olympic gold medalist Amy Williams.
Rachel also cites her Filipina mother as her constant support system. “[My mother] worked hard and took me and my two sisters to dance, singing and acting lessons nearly every day when we were children. All three of us went into the arts and she was always supportive, never objecting.”
HUMAN NATURE GLOBAL AMBASSADOR
It might be her mother’s reassurance that has turned Rachel into the confident, multitalented woman that she is today. Besides being an actress, this femme fatale is also a photographer, aspiring filmmaker, and beauty pageant queen—the list goes on and on. A recent addition to her distinctions is the title of Global Ambassador for all-natural personal care brand Human Nature.
[Click here to read FN’s interview with Human Nature’s founders, Anna Meloto-Wilk and Camille Meloto.]
On a visit to the Philippines, Rachel bought a lot of products from one of their stores. She enjoyed them so much that she bought more products from Human Nature’s website and e-mailed to give them positive feedback. When they replied and asked her if she wanted to become the face of the brand, Rachel was delighted and agreed.
“I truly believe in Human Nature’s products, what they stand for and how the company works,” Rachel shares excitedly. “They are pro-Philippines, pro-poor and pro-environment.... Human Nature uses 100 percent organic ingredients, which are all found in the Philippines. They do not import their ingredients—even if they can get them cheaper elsewhere, they don’t. I think they are world class, good quality, affordable products, and can definitely compete on an international market.” As Human Nature’s Global Ambassador, Rachel goes around the world giving interviews on TV, print, and the Web to spread the word about the brand.
Rachel cites Human Nature’s work with the charitable foundation Gawad Kalinga as one of the things that sealed the deal for her. Back in England, Rachel’s family runs a registered charity called the Padua Charitable Fund, which also works with the organization.
“[It] was founded in the name of our Padua family from the Philippines, in memory of some loved ones we had lost,” says Rachel. “We do a lot of work with Gawad Kalinga, and we are very proud to have raised over $85,000 in the last year, which has gone to building houses and schooling for children in poor communities in the Philippines.”
Indeed, this worldly woman has more than just acting skills under her belt. With a big heart, fierce determination, and a positive outlook on life, Rachel has accomplished so much with no signs of stopping or slowing down.
When asked what advice she wants to give Filipinas who are still trying to find their way, Rachel has this to say: “[There] is a lot of satisfaction and self worth to be found in helping others. Someone thanked me recently for helping them out, telling me, ‘The greatness of a person is not in what they can do, but what others can do because of them.’ I was very touched, and I like this statement. Daily, I make it a practice to be obliging to people, animals, and the environment. This can add much strength, abundance, and happiness to one’s life. No matter how small and insignificant you think an act is—just do it! Simply giving a compliment or some helpful feedback can even make a difference.”
(Movie stills from Die Another Day courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; other photos used with permission from Rachel Grant and Human Nature)
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