MY previous blog entry on veteran journalist Ricky Lo and his recent encounter with American actress Anne Hathaway, which eventually went viral on YouTube and various social networking sites, managed to generate a range of reactions from my friends on Facebook.
Likewise, for the first time in weeks, my stats managed to hit the roof, thanks to the said entry titled “Psst, Ricky Lo, it’s not about Lea Salonga, it’s about Anne Hathaway.” ;-)
For obvious reasons, friends, both real and virtual, find it easier to share their thoughts with me on Facebook than on the feedback section of this blog.
A good number also sent me personal messages on Facebook (it seems nobody, except spammers, con artists, publicists and real estate companies, send you e-mails these days), which, unfortunately, I can’t share with you.
But those brave enough to make their thoughts known in public were equally vocal and engaging. I’d like to share with you edited excerpts, including my responses to them below.
Like these intelligent and intrepid folks, it always pays to think, reflect and justify what you have just written before hitting the post button. And that applies to me and to every person out there with access to the Internet.
Otherwise, it’s better to keep your thoughts to yourself or written in an old, 20th-century diary and kept under lock and key. The world would probably be a better place without them. ;-)
Liza Ilarde (journalist, fashion editor and fearless fashionista): I finally saw the video. There’s a lot that goes on
in a situation like that that people don’t realize. First of all, all questions asked most likely had to be screened and approved (and he was probably allowed 5 questions; or 5 minutes).
Secondly, Ricky was probably Anne’s 100th interview of the day and I’m sure she is sick of being asked the same questions over and over again.
And speaking of questions, his questions about the weight loss and about experiencing being hungry and poor were perfectly legitimate—because that was what her role called for. Nobody flinched when Renée Zellweger was asked how she gained weight for Bridget Jones and then lost it all after filming. But, yes, he could’ve left Lea (Salonga) out of it!
alexyvergara: Those were exactly my points, Liza… Anne must have been bored within an inch of her skull answering similar questions the entire season that she simply cut off what she felt were repetitions of what she had been asked earlier.
Still, that was what she exactly signed up for. She isn’t exactly being paid four miserable dollars per hour. We’re talking about millions here, and the potential to extend her brand further and earn more millions in the years to come.
Ricky’s questions, although awkwardly framed, were legitimate. He doesn’t deserve the flak he has been getting from people who don’t know any better. I’m glad you agreed with me on the Lea thing. It was unnecessary.
And the part were he asked Anne to invite her fans in Manila to watch “Les Mis,” although juvenile, was perfectly acceptable. But what did Anne do? In so many words, she told Ricky, why don’t you invite them yourself. Why should Ricky do that? Girl, it’s your movie.
Schadenfreude (Beh, buti nga!)?
Xandi Martinez (a former classmate of mine now based in the US): YouTube videos are the biggest contributors to feelings of schadenfreude among the netizens as you call them.
alexyvergara: Xandi, the Internet, including YouTube and various social networking sites, is a double-edged sword. From a nameless loser, you are given the potential to become a pseudo celebrity overnight.
But like they say, there are no free lunches. Be prepared to be scrutinized once you put your neck out there. I’m not saying Ricky was asking for it, (nor is he a loser) but he knew fully well that there is a flip side to all that online exposure. Be prepared to take the brickbats. ’Ika nga, it’s the nature of the beast (Internet).
Ige Ramos (book designer, writer and magazine editor): YouTube, like live TV, is a very cruel medium. I guess Ricky Lo is better read than seen (and heard). With words, you have the luxury of rewriting, refining and editing before you commit the text to paper.
As for the unedited YouTube clip or live TV, there’s no way for you to edit out the bad parts. I feel so bad for Ricky Lo being bashed on line. This must have been his worst weekend. I suggest “digital diet” for him for the next two weeks. To Ricky: Don’t you worry, it will soon be forgotten until the next YouTube scandal/sensation comes out.
No force on earth
alexyvergara: Exactly my point, Ige. But, siempre, no force on earth, especially in a supposedly free country like the Philippines, can stop us from singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” Hahaha!
Markus Danao-Schmidt (Manila-based German businessman): I think that constant
mentioning of Lea was annoying and rude… The rest was quite ok.
alexyvergara: Yes, Markus, Lea being mentioned repeatedly would have annoyed anyone, especially a star like Anne. When you’re playing with egos, especially as big and as delicate as these celebs, you have to be careful.
But at the same time, though, (as a journalist) I also understand where Ricky was coming from. He wanted to steer the conversation towards Lea because he was in search of an angle that would appeal to Pinoys, and what better way to do that than to let Anne, the star of the moment, talk about Lea. He just didn’t know when to stop.
That same urge happened to me before with boxer Mike Tyson. I was just too glad that “Iron Mike” was the one who opened up the subject of Pacquiao, which I really intended to ask him, when he learned that I was Filipino. From one champion to another, I was able to squeeze in a question regarding his unsolicited advice to the then unbeatable Manny. There you go! I have my Pinoy angle that would appeal to my Filipino readers. I went home from New York that time a happy man.
Jojo Villanueva (Middle East-based doctor and former classmate of mine): Alex, I guess in
any interview they always remind us that the first impression would make a big difference. I guess the main culprit with Lo’s interview was his annoying habit of looking at his cellphone, which should not have been there in the first place. Yes, we are in the techie era, but can’t you let go of the phone for a few minutes and concentrate on your subject? I believe this paved the way for Anne’s bitchiness. I haven’t seen Oprah hold a cell phone in any interview. Miss Salonga’s take on this subject is very inspiring and I adore her even more.. this coming from a die-hard Lea Salonga fan.
alexyvergara: Jojo, you simply don’t look at your cell phone when doing an interview, period. But I guess Ricky wanted to stress a point by showing Anne a text message. Well, in the case of print, you can probably look at your cell phone, but you would have to definitely excuse yourself.
The subject may or may not take it well depending on the tone of the interview. If the questioning is becoming intense and the subject is unable to answer your questions, then he or she would surely welcome such a reprieve. It will be the interviewer’s lost. On the other hand, if the subject wants to stress a point and you keep on interrupting him or her by looking at your cell phone, then I won’t be surprised if the subject begs off to be interviewed the next time around.
Lea Salonga (need I describe for you who and what she’s achieved so far?): )Alex, there’s actually another interview by another Pinoy named Manny, the Movie Guy.
His questions included those identical to that of Ricky, but his tag of “I need to lose weight by Christmas” totally relaxed and lightened the atmosphere. A lot of the time, it isn’t the questions, but how they’re delivered.
On the celeb side naman, I can’t speak for Anne Hathaway, but I can speak for myself as one that’s been through the rigmarole of the press junket, some of which last for a few days. You get a lot of the same questions, and by the end of the day, the brain is so… for lack of a better word, “bangag“.
I’ve been trained to expect all kinds of questions, ranging from broadsheet to tabloid, so I try to keep my answers creative. My job is to remain professional and pleasant, as I need that reporter to write about and talk about my show, or TV stint, or movie, or whatever. This is as much a part of my job as singing and acting.
alexyvergara: True, Lea. That’s why I was a bit disappointed with Anne when she told Ricky, why don’t you do the inviting. Again, like I said earlier, why would Ricky do that? Girl, it’s your movie and you have fans in the Philippines that could probably extend your career when you eventually become a has-been in the US.
I also pointed out that the woman must be too tired and bored from answering similar questions all week long. But then again, how many people on earth are privileged to be asked, written about and be paid millions for doing what she does?
Finally, no offense to Ricky, TV may not be his best suit. But the questions he asked Anne, although delivered awkwardly, were perfectly legitimate questions.
Lea Salonga: Alex, ah well… everyone sees things from his or her own unique perspective. But I can think of a bazillion ways to answer the question, “How did you lose 25 pounds in 5 weeks,” if only for the benefit of entertaining myself.
alexyvergara: Unless she took shabu to shed off that weight, I don’t think losing weight and telling people how she did it on TV wasn’t worth discussing. Not if you do it for a role of a lifetime. Heck, I’d gladly declare it to the entire world. I may never be asked that question again. But then again, my talents, so my mother says, lie elsewhere.
Marc Sibal (New York-based friend of mine): I have seen a ton of interviews on Anne
during the promotion of this film and when she is on national TV with, say, Matt Lauer or David Letterman asking the question on the weight loss, and she was very pleasant and accommodating.
I think the energy on the Ricky Lo interview was very dismal. She looked tired and doesn’t show any type of encouragement.
Also, they meet international journalists for quite sometime as part of the press junket so they are probably very tired on the same question over and over again. The best interview I saw was the Hollywood Reporter interview (roundtable), a really intelligent conversation.
Daphne Oseña Paez (broadcaster, writer, executive producer and host of “Urban Zone”): On the weight loss, I
can think of one important reason why Anne didn’t want to talk about it. There is a consciousness towards improving girls’/women’s body image (not so much in Hollywood where they glorify thinness).
In fact even Pinterest has banned the use of the word “thinspiration” and the images that promote unhealthy eating. I think she has taken on women’s issues and empowerment as her advocacy (not sure which international agency she’s supporting).
But I guess by talking about how she lost 25 pounds would send the wrong message to many young girls. That or maybe the part about “and you gained it all back” threw her off. Haha! The rest, I think, is cultural.
alexyvergara: Since you’re a broadcaster, Daphne, my question is would you use material as thin as what Ricky had for airing? Would you have it uploaded for all the world to see? It hardly said anything.
I can’t even pass it off, in my book, as bragging rights. Anne skirted almost everything the interviewer asked her. There was an option not to upload, but they still uploaded it. So there!
On the other hand, uploading it showed how selective Anne could be. Like the inviting thing, that was being mean, albeit packaged nicely. Why would you pass on the job of inviting your Pinoy fans to your interviewer? That’s universal. You made a movie and, for some strange reason, the journalist is asking you to do the inviting. Strange as it is, you should have given in.
Not in its entirety
Daphne: If I were the executive producer of the show I would not have aired that interview in its entirety. Reports/interviews on TV are mostly edited. But it wasn’t a “broadcaster” who uploaded it. It was a newspaper.
If I were Ricky, it would be an issue between me and the paper. As you mentioned, we’ve all had our bad interviews. Luckily for me, it’s never happened on a live show, mostly taped. And as producer, I can cut and choose which soundbyte airs. The thing is, in North American culture, being “bara” is not taken offensively.
And Anne wasn’t exactly making him bara (cutting him off) for bara’s sake. She just didn’t want to answer certain questions (for whatever reason). Here lang people see it as “pahiya ka ano?” IMHO, Ricky was doing his job as usual, nothing wrong with it. He just didn’t know how to handle the awkward situation—like many of us wouldn’t know either.
Again, it could be cultural. Or maybe a language thing. And about the inviting of Filipino fans to watch thing, Pinoy journalists really have to stop asking that. It’s redundant (the whole interview is already an invitation/promotion of the movie). Believe me, I made a mistake of asking a Hollywood star the same just last year, and I, too, got “bara’d” (cut off). Hahaha!
alexyvergara: See, Daphne, that has been my position all along (well, for the most part), and I’m not even a broadcaster. Hahaha!
What if I do a Ricky Lo and make sawsaw (dabble) on TV? Would you guys support me? Hahahaha! Indeed, the bright boys of his paper have plenty to answer for. I haven’t talked to Ricky yet, and I don’t know if he had a hand in uploading the interview in its entirety (including his cellphone, I think, escaping his grip). Imagine? Pati iyun nilagay! (Even that part wasn’t edited out!)
To be fair to Ricky, I probably wouldn’t know what to do either. It’s cultural, language and a comfort zone thing. Here in the Philippines, he is the Ricky Lo (he gets the best seats and, like the Red Sea, movie hands stand at attention and steer clear to make way for him), but in the US he was just one among dozens of media persons trying to get an interview with Anne and the rest of the cast that day.
Michael learns to laugh
There was no special treatment, and it probably made him nervous. Like I remember asking a number of lame bordering probably on the dumb questions when I was new, and was assigned to interview the Danish group Michael Learns to Rock in Manila.
I forget now what I said, but the group leader was a pretty patient and gracious man who rode along and answered my questions.
But one of his bandmates, the drummer I think, wasn’t as, well, charitable. He made it known, short of calling me stupid, that he found the way I framed my questions (and perhaps even my accent and my English) funny and probably redundant. He was snickering in the back. Tawang nakakaloko. (Laughing with contempt.)
In hindsight, I knew I didn’t do well. I was a fan of them prior to the interview, but after that I no longer listened to their music. Hmp! Leche sila! (Damn them!) :-D
And, yes, I totally agree with you on the “please invite your fans” routine. I don’t do it because I don’t work for broadcast. I guess my version would be “do you have any message to your fans?” Like I said, the fact that the star made time and sat down with you is already a tacit invitation on her part to invite the public.