Max Collins may likely come on set donning the most pedestrian sweatshirt and baggy pants she wore in a boxing studio, but you’d know immediately that a celebrity has just entered the building.
In the relatively quieter, languorous side of Maginhawa where a kitschy café sits close to a nearly empty parking lot, it’s practically a ghost town on a weekday afternoon. Max’s entrance, though, can make it appear like there’s an event ongoing.
At 23, the Fil-Am doe-eyed beauty exerts the charm that most people associate with the confidence of rising stars, but there’s a certain rawness and candor about her that makes you want to look beneath the surface.
TAKING THE STAGE
“Lately, I’ve been shooting for Encantadia and Bubble Gang,” says Max, her unfiltered face betraying none of the long, late hours that the tapings must have required. Alongside taping for those two shows, she’s been guesting for Magpakailanman and Wish Ko Lang. Thanks in no small part to her commendable acting prowess or arguably more to her powerful presence onscreen, #maxcollinsonmpk was an actual hashtag that trended last May, owing to her appearance as the abused housewife Malen in Magpakailanman.
“[Acting] is something that’s second nature to me. I’m so used to it. I grew up in it,” says Max. “It’s my passion.” Having been honing her acting chops since 14 under the screen name “Isabelle Abiera,” the actress has been part of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic, occasionally doing hosting stints and acting for afternoon dramas, until shifting to GMA with her now-better-known moniker Max Collins.
“This is such a funny story: there is [another] Max Collins in the States,” she says, laughing. “He’s a singer. He’s been tweeting me that we should do a collab!” It can hardly be denied that aside from having better recall, there’s a kind of androgynous ring to the name—likely indicative of her own desired versatility on screen. “I try to play different roles so I don’t get typecast,” says Max, having recently portrayed characters ranging from a miserable housewife to her mother’s romantic rival.
BATTLING THE ODDS
“What I notice is that the shows that work best or do better are the ones where you’re very in sync with [people] on set or where you’re very comfortable with your co-actors, or you just have a good rapport with everyone,” explains Max. “Because if you’re not having fun onset, it’ll translate on screen. If you’re not in sync, it shows.”
Show business is no cakewalk. As the local entertainment industry gets too crowded and cutthroat, staying ahead warrants a stamina to juggle multiple projects and endure endless working hours. The longest she’s been onset is from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. the next day. “We had to finish all the scenes because it was our last taping day. I died, got married, and gave birth all on the same day!” she quips.
Still, there’s nothing in her appearance that signifies fatigue. She merely credits her complexion to basic beauty routines: taking off her makeup after work, drinking lemon water and tea with wild honey. And her ultimate beauty secret would have to be using Japanese makeup brands like Koh Gen Do. “I just love Japanese makeup brands, because I think it’s healthier for my skin. My skin is yellow so it actually complements my skin.”
Keeping herself fit and healthy have always been key to performing well. “I have to eat healthy. Even if I want to eat McDonald’s, I have to say no. As much as I can, I eat stuff that are less processed. My immune system has to be really strong. And I try not to eat after 7:30 p. m. When I do I end up bloated the next day.”
She used to do yoga until she decided to pursue a sport that would better build her stamina. “I got so used to doing yoga that my body didn’t really benefit from it anymore. I wanted something to build my strength.” With her cousin who’s a trainer, she regularly works out at home, and boxes at Maic’s Gym twice a week to maintain her figure.
“Burpees! Ugh, I hate burpees! But I have to do them: squats, crunches, all the stuff I hate,” she says. In our local tinseltown where new, younger actresses emerge from month to month, the discipline of maintaining one’s best image is critical to the competition. “It’s really hard to compete with all of the upcoming actresses,” Max admits. “Good skin and being fit is really crucial to the job—we have to be at our best or someone else will get the role.”
Add to that, keeping herself emotionally balanced is an entirely different ballgame. Her skin and form may be the stuff of perfect fashion portraits that need no further editing, yet Max had still attracted some backlash concerning her appearance. At the start of her career, apparently, being mestiza had its drawbacks. “It was a stereotype: if you’re mestiza, you can only be a contrabida,” she says. “There was a stigma. The bida had to look more innocent, morena, relatable, not someone with foreign blood.”
In the industry, it takes more than the simple cleanse-tone-moisturize routine to keep up with the daily grind; staying involves struggling with self-image and the industry’s perceptions of beauty—something that no amount of foundation can conceal or cure.
“I think being able to take rejection and constructive criticism well has helped my career a lot. If you’re too sensitive, showbiz is a very hard industry to be in.” What’s admirable about Max is how she projects an image that’s all her own, may it be through her sophisticated fashion photos, her raw and quirky behind-the-scenes IG posts, or through her everyday style that’s at once classy, feminine, and laidback (think neutrals and pastel-colored garb whose lack of complexity is their own allure). Beauty, for Max, is staying true to who she is.
OWNING HER IMAGE
“If you always take into consideration what people say about you, it can really break your self-esteem. People comment all the time. You really go through struggles, whether it [involves] acting, or the way you look, your weight, your skin. There’s always something to pick on.”
For Max, the understated virtue of staying positive and taking control of her life may well be the most powerful beauty tenet. “Empowered women empower women,” a quote reads in one of her IG posts. “I try to post positive quotes on my feed,” she says, “or something I learned from a book or a bible verse. I try to give out positive vibes to my followers.”
Currently, she is reading a book by Tony Robbins entitled Awaken the Giant Within, where she learns how to control emotions by using the right language. “It’s on how to think positive and how to use positive words to attract positivity. . . Instead of saying ‘I’m so pissed and I’m depressed today,’ you just say ‘I feel odd today,’” she advises. “You’re not putting too much negativity. You don’t give it too much pansin. You don’t give too much power to the words.” More than maintaining her figure, an actress maintains an eternally sunny disposition amid relentless throngs of criticism. “I’ve been in the industry for so long. I’ve done other things, yet I still manage to stay.” Ultimately, beauty for Max means taking control and knowing what she wants. In 10 years time, expect her to lead evening shows, perfecting her craft and joining the ranks of local entertainment greats. That, and probably also managing her own bourgeoning business empire. “Hey, a girl can dream, right?” she says, half- jokingly. “I see myself running my own businesses, and only acting in projects that I’m really passionate about.”
As she said, a show does indeed owe its success to how in sync the crew and the actors are, and Max similarly owes her brilliance to beauty forged through discipline and balance. What makes her glow from the inside out is knowing that success involves having a clear ambition and pursuing it all throughout. “You have to take control of your life and what it is that you want,” she says. “You go for it. You don’t let people keep you back.”
COVER GIRL Max Collins
Photographer: Edward Keeler
Makeup Artist : Xeng Zulueta
Hair Stylist : Iwa Ajinomoto
Fashion Stylist : Ash Aquino