Sue Ramirez, a light that never goes outdesktop
Showbiz is full of stars, but there’s no one like Sue
The basement of a mall is a place that sunlight never touches – so as you can imagine, everything about it is dreary: stark white lights, plain walls, a faint smell of cleaning chemicals that lingers in the air, a single, persistent fly buzzing about.
But on one particular Sunday afternoon, a handful of people find themselves in the basement of one particular mall in Taguig – but if you couldn't see them, you'd never know they were there. Each person minds their own business, scrolling non-stop on their phones. There is little conversation, certainly no laughter – that is, until Sue Ramirez walks in.
The actress enters the basement about an hour before she is scheduled to appear at a mall show promoting her film, Cuddle Weather. The moment she walks in, the stark white lights feel like sunlight, and the the volume on the scene is turned up to full. As she chats with her entourage, their brazen laughter cuts across the dullness and suddenly, the room comes alive.
Because Sue is early, she waits quite a while to be called up on stage – and during that wait, she barely stays still. In her high-heeled boots she prances from the door to one end of the room, sits cross-legged on the grubby leather couch in the corner. After a few minutes, she gets up and sits on a monobloc chair in another corner.
Every so often, she stands in front of a mirror wall and strikes a pose, flipping her hair from one side of her head to the other, stretching her legs out until her poses turn into a dance. In front of the same mirror, she preens, examining her petite face, which is half-doe eyes, half-smile.
Sometimes, Sue falls quiet, her wide smile crumpling into a thoughtful pout as she seemingly loses herself in thought or scrolls through her phone – but when this happens, it is never for more than a beat.
By show time, she runs up to the stage, as bouncy as she was in that dull basement, and when the fans – 5 storeys worth of them – explode in screams at the sight of her, her energy only intensifies to match theirs.
At that particular mall show, she shares the stage with Cuddle Weather co-star RK Bagatsing – but with all due respect to him, Sue steals the proverbial spotlight – or more precisely, the spotlight is glued to her the entire time, as if it didn’t have a choice.
On stage she flirts expertly with her co-star and the crowd, batting her long eyelashes at the exact right moments, cracking jokes with perfect timing. At several points, she descends the stage, and gets as close to the crowd as she can, and the screaming only escalates when she is near.
Seeing her command a live show, in fact, seeing her at all – in a TV interview, at a press conference, even in her unguarded moments – it’s hard to imagine Sue as anything other than an artista.
She is by any measure, the textbook artista: full of energy, multi-talented (she can sing, dance, and act), engaging, and obviously beautiful in that mestiza way that seems to give any aspiring actress an extra leg up in the industry.
She’s a perfect fit for Pinoy showbiz, and that’s something she knew even as a child, when her titas would encourage their half-American niece to sing and dance at family gatherings.
“Siyempre anak ako ng foreigner, so yung mga tita ko, ‘naku mag-artista!’ Ganyan yung mga tita natin diba? ‘Tas kumakanta kasi ako nung bagets ako, mahilig ako magkaraoke. So, ‘uy pagartistahin niyo yan,’” she said in an interview with Rappler.
(I was the daughter of a foreigner, so my aunts, they said ‘oh you have to be an actress!’ That’s what our aunties are like, right? And I sung when I was a kid, I loved karaoke. So, they were like, ‘make her an actress.’)
Of course, most Filipino kids at some point were forced by their relatives to sing or dance or dramatically recite poems at family events – but not every Filipino kid goes on to become a star. That was a dream Sue took into her own 13-year-old hands, 9 years ago.
Back then, Star Magic – the ultimate artista-churning machine of the early-2000s – held auditions for their next batch of talents. Sue saw the call on TV and knew she had to at least try – not only because she loved performing, but because she wanted to help her family financially.
“Somehow financially I wanted to help ‘cos my dad was sick...Until he passed away when I was 17, may sakit ang daddy ko (my dad was sick) so somehow that was also a motivation for me,” she shared.
So one day 9 years ago, at 6 in the morning, the barely-teenage Sue went to the audition venue unaccompanied, with no pocket money, and not even a cellphone to keep in touch with her family (though her sister later snuck in to the venue to lend her a phone).
"I lined up at the audience entrance, pang-697 po ako sa pila, hindi ko makakalimutan (I was 697th in line, I won't forget)," she said.
"Mga almost 12 midnight na kami natapos and sabi ko siguro para sakin talaga, kasi yung araw na yun pwedeng umuwi ka nalang dahil napagod ka, nainitan ka, nagutom ka,” Sue said.
(We ended at almost 12 midnight, and I told myself that maybe this really is for me, because that day, you could have gone home because you got tired, you got hot, you got hungry.)
"So ganung level na hindi ko naramdaman na gutom ako, hindi ako nainitan, hindi ako napagod, so sabi ko siguro that’s God’s way of telling me that this is for you.”
(I was at that level that I didn’t feel the hunger, the heat. I didn’t get tired. So I thought, maybe that was God’s way of telling me that this is for you.)
Of course, we know how that audition would work out. Since then, Sue has become a star on the rise, starting with a supporting role in the remake of the iconic teleserye Mula Sa Puso. She then racked up quite the filmography – and while not all of her films have been well-received by critics, her on-screen presence has not gone unnoticed.
In the 2018 film Ang Babaeng Allergic Sa Wi-Fi, for instance, it’s Sue’s wide-eyed expressions that give weight to a plot that one might call cliche-ridden and flimsy. It’s those same eyes, described as “wide, saucer eyes” by ANCX critic Andrew Paredes, that he said “convey an unnerving innocence” in Cuddle Weather.
That film may have been her most daring yet – not because of backbreaking action sequences, but because it tells the story of people on the fringes of a conservative, sex-shy society: two prostitutes who fall in love with each other.
In an industry where most leading ladies play wholesome characters that barely even kiss their leading men on-screen, to literally bare it all and portray a sex worker is a risk for any actress, especially for Sue, whose career at this point is only beginning to hit full speed.
‘An open book’
Interestingly enough, for someone who has always dreamed of being an actress, there doesn’t seem to be any desperation in the way she handles her career, no pressing need to box herself within a pristine, picture-perfect image – even when she’s playing no other role but herself.
“I’m an open book, and all these people know that,” she said.
“Hindi ako marunong magsinungaling eh, hindi ako pinalaking sinungaling ng nanay ko so hindi ako marunong mag-deny sa press.”
(I don’t know how to lie, I wasn’t brought up by my mother to be a liar, so I don’t know how to deny to the press.)
Sue is as candid as anyone under the public eye can be. For instance, when asked at a press conference if she was wearing a bra, Sue pulls the neckline of her top aside to show that in fact, she wasn’t, and so what?
Sue fielded many more invasive questions at that event, and she answered them all in a way that felt like you were talking to a friend, and not an artista. There seems to be no PR strategizing as far as she’s concerned, no intentionally vague responses or dramatic pauses to feed intrigue.
Her approach to handling press is simple: “Wag ka magpapilit sa mga tao dyusko. Kung may ayaw kang sabihin wag mo sabihin.”
(Don’t let people force you into anything, my god. If there’s something you don’t want to say, just don’t say it.)
It helps that Sue, the youngest of 5 children, isn’t treated like a star when she’s at home: “Sa bahay namin, hindi ako artista. Inuutusan pa rin ako ng mga kapatid ko. Bunso kasi ako. (At home, I’m not a celebrity. My siblings still order me around, because I’m the youngest.)”
“They treat me how they treated me when I was a kid. Baby naman nila ko ever since eh so hanggang ngayon yun pa rin ako (I’ve always been their baby, so until now, that’s who I am),” she said
Ultimately, Sue’s career seems to be driven not by the pursuit of fame, but the simple enjoyment of her craft. That is to say: despite being the textbook artista, it’s not the celebrity she’s after – it’s the opportunity to tell stories and play different characters.
There doesn’t seem to be a role she shies away from. She’s already played a prostitute. In the upcoming action flick Kid Alpha One, she plays a veterinarian.
She’s also leading the cast in Mikhail Red’s Dead Kids, a coming-of-age thriller that’s premiering on November 17. Branded as the first Filipino Netflix original, the film may just bring Sue to a global audience
Sue’s eyes lit up as she spoke about all the different characters she gets to play.
“Oh my god! It’s so fulfulling to get to channel emotions that Sue as a person doesn't channel, so I get a broader understanding of what people are going through,” she said, explaining that she feels like she can’t judge anyone anymore, because part of her job is understanding other peoples’ experiences.
“Alam mo yung, ang dami mong pangarap nung bata ka – gusto mo maging doktor, gusto mo maging cashier, ngayon nagagawa ko na silang lahat,” she shared.
(You know how you had so many dreams as a kid – you wanted to be a doctor, you wanted to be a cashier. Now I get to do all of it.)
Even as she delights in playing different roles, Sue never seems to lose sight of who she really is: the girl who kickstarted her own career at 13, the public’s open book, her family’s baby, an actual human being, and the kind of woman who naturally lights up screen, stage, or windowless room – a star, in every sense of the word. – Rappler.com