“And we get to have beer?” Divine Maitland-Smith exclaims excitedly as we pop open a bottle of San Miguel, some refreshing relief from the heat wave on the sunny Saturday afternoon of the shoot. She pours herself a glass and raises it to Megan Campbell, who she’s sharing the cover with and was at the moment getting her makeup done. “This is already like the best shoot ever.”
Laid-back and fun aren’t the top two words that would come to mind when describing photo shoots—especially a full production such as this, which involved both newly bought and improvised equipment, 12 people in the studio, and a clothing collection that designer Yves Camingue brought over from Manila for the weekend. But somehow, the group of people who had come together and the concept for the shoot made it one of the most enjoyable productions we’ve done recently—and honestly, the beer might have helped too.
It seems like just yesterday when Divine won audiences over on Pinoy Big Brother, even though, much to my disbelief, her stint on the popular reality show was five years ago. “I know. It’s crazy,” she laughs. “I’m so old.”
“Going into PBB, I didn’t how what it was,” Divine recalls. I’d never even watched PBB before getting on the show—it was a platform I could use. I wanted to show people that you could be gay and comfortable in your skin, that you could be feminine or masculine or whatever.” She pauses, then adds with a laugh, “Also my mom made me do it because she was like, you need to do something with your life!”
One of the most genuinely friendly and happy people I’ve met in the city, Divine has a candid and easygoing demeanor that makes it easy to imagine her charming national audiences. It also helped that her close friendship with fellow Cebuano Slater Young had inspired an army of fans who shipped their make-believe romance. “We have a book based on us. It’s fan fiction,” she shares, shaking her head. “My fans gave me copies because I had no clue that this was happening. There’s a guy and girl kissing on a cover, and I’m like, that’s not us!”
Despite many fans’ hopes, though, Slater and Divine remain just good friends, but being part of the series has certainly affected her life even now, five years later. “It really changed my life completely,” she admits. “I was with ABS-CBN for three years doing TV series, and it’s just not for me. Being involved in the industry allowed me to see that I didn’t want to be in the industry that way.”
Instead, Divine spends most of her days waking up at five every morning to get ready for her culinary classes at ISCAHM. “I never wanted to go back to school, you know. School sucks,” she admits. “But it’s different when you’re passionate about something. I go to class excited, and I don’t wanna be late.”
The change in career might be something of a surprise for most people, but it’s actually one that’s a long time coming. “I’ve always been really into food. My favorite shows to watch are cooking shows—Masterchef, Top Chef, all that stuff. I love food, and I’m such a critic of restaurants that I go to,” Divine shares. “It’s kind of something that my ex pushed me to do. She was like, ‘You seem so passionate about it, why don’t you just do it?’”
The decision seemed to be the right one. Divine is animated as she talks about her favorite dish to cook, and the restaurant she hopes to open in the next year. “It’ll be healthier food, but still really good. I’m into lighter food—I mean, you can make fish and chips but with a lighter batter so it’s not so heavy, not so fattening. My school right now is very technical, so it’s very French. There’s a lot of butter and cream, a lot of the bad stuff. It’s great to learn the proper technique, but I wanna change.”
Change includes taking four months after graduation to move to Thailand, where she hopes to pick up more of Thai cooking techniques. “I want my restaurant to be Thai-influenced, because I lived there for so long and I love Thai food. They have texture—bitter, sweet. It’s like everything in one dish,” she explains.
The restaurant venture will also help her get back into her other passion—tattoos. “I design tattoos but I just don’t tattoo anymore,” Divine says with a sigh, adding that she might have a little corner in her studio dedicated to that.
Besides food and art, music remains a very big part of Divine’s life—she still flies to Manila regularly for DJ gigs, although it’s become a lot less frequent since she started school. Her main project, though, is a new music movement. “I’m trying to introduce house music, something not so mainstream. I feel like Cebu lacks diversity, and we need people to influence and show what else is there,” she says.
As I tell her about Joachim Go’s trance playlist and how people don’t seem to appreciate it, she shakes her head. “How can you not appreciate someone putting their love and passion into what they do? It’s hard to do it here, but it’s time for a change.”
Staying in your comfort zone is something that Divine feels strongly against. “That’s my motto—do one thing that scares you everyday, because it pushes you to be more,” she says. “How can you grow if you’re stuck?”
Megan and her fight against that stagnation by spending their free time exploring new activities. “We always try to do something for the first time, even just here in Cebu,” Megan quips.
And what was the last thing they did together for the first time? “Today,” Divine grins. “This was definitely a first.”
The first time I’d seen Megan was in the lookbook for Elated Industries’ 2016 Surf and Turf collection—and with her sharp jawline, her strong brows and piercing eyes, it’s hard not to notice her. There was just something about her that seemed mysterious but relaxed that was undeniably eye-catching.
“Modeling has always been my passion. It’s the only thing I feel is like my calling in life,” the 19-year-old admits. That passion certainly shows—at the shoot, she thought about each pose carefully and asked to have a mirror right in front of her, so she could critique her every move before finally directing her gaze to the camera. Her dedication pays off, considering the image we use in this spread is actually the very first one of this photoset.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to model, I think ever since I was a toddler,” Megan admits. “Obviously it’s a hard career but I like the challenge, because it makes me realize that this is for me.”
“Yeah, you put a camera in front of Megan, and she just transforms,” Divine adds candidly.
Besides modeling, Megan is also a radio jock for Monster Radio, a job that she’d gotten with the help of Raine Baljak. “She was working at Monster at the time, and she got me the connection,” she recalled. “It just went on from there. I’ve been very lucky.”
The entertainment industry is one that Megan is set on joining, but for reasons that are more endearing than just fortune and fame. “One of the reasons why I wanted to join radio, or entertainment and the media at all, is that you get to influence somebody—hopefully for the better,” she shares. “You can influence them by changing their mindset, by making them happy if they had a bad day. You get to use your voice for something hopefully good.”
Megan’s drive to do good and succeed in her endeavors is inspiring, and she’s planning on making the next year a platform to really start her career. “This year is a big year,” she declares. “This year is my year to really make it in modeling, and maybe going into acting and more entertainment. I don’t want to be 50 and look back, saying that I never tried. But also, I want this year to be something like a journey of self-discovery—to learn more every day.”
For someone who had just moved to Cebu from Hong Kong a little less than two years ago, Megan had already found a support system and a lifestyle that she felt she needed. “It was the most beautiful change I’ve ever had,” she admits about the move her family had done after she graduated high school and her mom retired from Cathay Pacific. “Compared to Hong Kong, coming here really humbles you, and it makes you see that there’s more to life than just working and paying for stuff. Moving here made me realize that life is about finding your own happiness. Life is about finding who you are as a person.”
Her life in Cebu has brought on a lot of changes and discoveries—such as introducing her to her favorite new restaurant Joed’s (a small hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in Mabolo), and hidden spots she’d discovered on a recent road trip up north to Daanbantayan. For Megan, these are all stories that she collects and hopefully will share with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the future. “I want to have these stories where I’ve walked these different paths of life—then I understand people more,” she says. “I always tell myself, and my friends whenever they’re going through something: imagine your life to be a storybook. Make it the best damn storybook that anyone has ever read.”
Photography, hair and makeup by Arnauld | Styling by Blaq Mafia | All clothes by Yves Camingue
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle April 2017