Armed with a charismatic nature and enticing hazel eyes, Leila Alcasid is ready to take on new terrains. The 19-year-old made the big move to the Philippines to pursue a path in the same industry where her parents had created their own promising careers. Despite being the newcomer, Leila shows that she’s here for the long haul.
Born to beauty queen Michelle van Eimeren and OPM royalty Ogie Alcasid, it’s evident that Leila has star quality stitched to her very genes. After spending an afternoon shooting with the Fil-Aussie beauty, it’s unmistakable that she inherited her mom’s incontestable allure and her dad’s captivating voice. But family ties aside, Leila stands out as her own woman thanks to her own sense of ingenuity and buoyant disposition in life.
The star-in-the-making is hard at work on honing her passions through acting workshops and voice lessons, all while learning the local language at the side. After almost a year since moving, things are already looking bright for Leila. She’s currently signed under Star Music and is working on creating her own songs, with two already slated for release before the year ends. Aside from her star qualities and a talent for creating unique melodies, what makes Leila a successful candidate in show business is her positive take on criticism, which shows that she’s developed an admirable sense of professionalism way ahead in the game—something which many in the industry still struggle with. “I was always really scared that I was gonna receive a lot of criticisms because I would be compared to my parents. They both have crazy careers and have achieved so many things,” Leila shares. “But for me, I just had to remind myself why I’m doing it. Criticisms are there to help shape you, but they don’t define you.”
Here, Leila gets chatty with us in a candid conversation where she reveals the best thing about moving back to the country, the homegrown talents she looks up to, and the process she went through to finally make something she can call her own.
How has life been since moving to the Philippines?
It’s gone very fast because it’s like November now and I moved in January. I’ve experienced and learned a lot of new things in a very short amount of time. It’s been kind of overwhelming—but in a good way—to move somewhere and have a completely different life. I feel very at home and I finally feel like I’m doing something for me, something that I really enjoy. So far, it’s been a very good time here.
What’s been the hardest part about the move?
The Tagalog. (Laughs) There are a few hard things but I’m mainly just trying to work hard to learn the language. I can understand a lot better but I still struggle to speak it. And also missing my family back in Australia—my mom, my stepdad, and my little sister. My mom just visited me for my birthday but it’s always hard to say goodbye again especially since I grew up with them. It was a big adjustment. But other than that, everything’s been kind of easy. I think I adjusted very nicely.
What has been the best thing about living in Manila?
Being able to spend time with my dad, my stepmom, my brother, my lola. Basically, my whole family here—all the Alcasids, especially my grandparents. Growing up, apart from when I lived here before, I didn’t really get to see them so I didn’t really get to know them. So it’s definitely the best part—being able to visit them every week, getting to know them on a much more personal level, and just building a new relationship with my dad. I think it’s really important for me to do that and this year has been pivotal in our relationship because we’ve learned a lot about each other. We’ve grown very, very close so family is definitely the best thing about being here.
What have you been busy with lately?
Lately, I’ve been working on some music. I’ve recorded two songs so far and I’m currently working on more with Marion Aunor. She’s my producer and we’re working under Star Music. We’re in the process of writing a few more songs and we’ve just figured out the kind of sound that I have. So lately, I’ve been focusing mainly on my music. A couple months back, I’ve been doing acting workshops and also of course, working on my Tagalog. We’re kind of still in the development process, just getting myself ready to do whatever it is I need to do.
“Criticisms are there to help shape you, but they don’t define you.”
Do you write your own songs?
I do write songs. But the first one I recorded, I didn’t write. It was Marion who wrote it. But what we did was that she came to my house one day and we just sat and I told her all my hugot stories (laughs) and songs came out of it. But I’ve written a few myself. I think I’m just a bit shy to show anyone right now so maybe in the future. (Laughs) I’ve written a few with my dad as well and he’s really helpful with that. But I’m definitely still working on my songwriting skills.
Where do you get inspiration for the songs you write yourself?
From past experiences. And also from experiences of the people around me and the people I love. Of course, experiences with boys and stuff like that, but also family experiences. I’ve written songs about my relationship with my dad, with my mom, things like that. I guess for anyone, it’s the experiences that cause you the most emotional turmoil. (Laughs)
What genre does your music fall into?
It’s pop but it’s kind of relaxed. The songs I’ve currently done have a bit of a Lorde peg to them but I’m also very into Yuna so hopefully in the future, I definitely want to have a bit of Yuna’s vibe into the songs I write.
Who are some of the artists you look up to?
Apart from my parents of course, my stepmom is definitely one of my idols, especially after her concert. But apart from them, I love Kathryn Bernardo. I remember before I moved here, I was trying to get used to the sound of the language so I would watch Tagalog movies and stuff like that. I’ve watched all of the KathNiel movies that ever existed. (Laughs) I became a really big fan so she’s definitely one of my idols. She’s super kind, a good actress, well-behaved, and all these things. She handles herself very well. And Bela Padilla, oh my goodness. I just met her so I only recently came to know about her. But she’s just one of the coolest people I would love to emulate one day. She’s creative across so many different platforms—she’s an actress, she can sing, and she’s also a scriptwriter. It’s one of my dreams—because I love writing—to be able to write a story one day and hopefully have it translated into something like a film. I think to be that multi-talented and to be that creative is definitely something to aspire to.
“When it comes to singing, I’m extremely critical of myself. I guess it’s partly because I have the parents that I do.”
Which has had more appeal to you between acting and singing?
I used to say acting and then for a while I said singing so I’m a bit indecisive. (Laughs) But I think right now, both of them have equal appeal to me. Acting, for me, is such a nice way to release emotions and use your creativity. Music is more like a challenge because musicality doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me. I had to take voice lessons and I can’t read music, so I really had to practice. It’s definitely a challenge in that sense but I enjoy it because it’s something very new. But I think right now, my focus is on music because I need to put more attention into it. With acting, I want to work on it until I’m actually ready to try and do it for real. Of course, I still need to work a little more on my Tagalog so I need to be patient and allow myself more time with that.
Has there ever been a time when you felt like giving up because things weren’t going smoothly?
Of course, especially when you’re trying something so new. For me, it’s definitely challenging. There’s definitely been times throughout the year when I felt giving up. I mean, I think it’d be weird if I didn’t feel that way. When it comes to singing, I’m extremely critical of myself. Actually, I’m critical of myself with anything I do, but especially with singing. I guess it’s partly because I have the parents that I do (laughs) but also because I only recently started working on my voice. I have a long way to go but sometimes I tend to get a little impatient. I just have to remind myself that it’s a process and it’s not gonna happen in a day. I remember one time recently in my second recording, I was so nervous. I was having a really bad day and it just wasn’t working out. I started crying in the middle of the recording, so I felt really mad at myself. I was thinking to myself, “Why are you crying?” or “Why can’t you sing today?”. So at times like that, I definitely feel like asking myself, “Should I even keep trying?”. But I think the fact that I’m still here and I’m still persevering is a sign that I should be doing it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
From all my parents, actually. The main piece of advice that they would always remind me when I was younger—especially since coming from a showbiz family—is to remain humble and be kind to everyone regardless of who they are, where they come from, or how much they earn. Even if I wasn’t necessarily growing up in a showbiz kind of life back in Australia, they would remind us to be kind to everyone. People remember you for the way you treat others so always be humble.
Aside from singing, what else are you interested in doing?
I’ve always loved writing and art. Any kind of art. In high school, I was super into painting and I was also into creative writing. Since I’m currently focusing on my music and acting, I would love to eventually get back into that because it’s my first love. I always try to keep exercising my writing skills so I’d love to be able to write more stories again in the future and get into something like scriptwriting and things like that. With art, I would love to do some sort of art piece when I have a bit more time. That’s something I’d like to do especially because when my mom was here, she was very into pottery. She would hold pottery exhibits and stuff like that, so one day, I would love to be able to do that with paintings.
“You have to remind yourself that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.”
What have you learned so far from your stay here?
I’ve learned that you have to have thick skin. Being in this industry, you’re going to be criticized a lot so you have to prepare for that. You have to remind yourself that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. So yeah, develop thick skin. Always remain gracious, kind, and understanding. Don’t just jump into conclusions about the criticisms you receive, and not just from bashers, but also from the people within the industry.
What are you most excited about in the near future?
Releasing my songs! I mean, I’m super nervous but I’m also really excited. I loved the whole creative process of things—from the music videos to writing more songs and eventually performing them for people. I’m so scared about that but excited at the same time. I’m super excited for people to be able to hear it and for me to finally have something of my own. I haven’t really created anything of my own yet as my entrance into this industry. I guess that will be the first real thing that I get to do.
Moving on to fashion, what’s your personal style like?
It really varies. Some days I’m just super lazy and I wouldn’t care what I’m wearing. But other days, especially when I travel, I like to experiment with my outfits. I have a very classic style and I wouldn’t call myself super adventurous. Since I was young, I really stuck to classic pieces and neutral colors. I used to think it was boring before. I would only wear white, gray, or navy. But as I’ve gotten older, I realized that it doesn’t have to be boring. You can accessorize, you can always make it look nice. I definitely will always have a classic style, but I try to become a little adventurous sometimes.
Who are the style icons you look up to?
This blogger, Aimee Song, I super love her style. Also Shay Mitchell, Jules Sariñana, I love them. There are so many that I follow but they’re the main ones I always stalk for outfit inspiration. I love the whole street style trend. It’s very relaxed but also super cool.
Which item in your closet would you never throw away?
Oh my goodness, probably my Gucci Princetown mules. I got them this year and I think I’ve worn them almost every day. (Laughs) They’re my favorite pair of shoes because they’re very classic. They go with everything and they don’t really go out of style. Hopefully my feet won’t grow for now because I want to keep those for a while. (Laughs)
Which clothing piece would you spend the most money on?
I feel like I tend to splurge on dresses especially when I was in Australia. I love all the Australian designers. I only went to school and didn’t even have that many places to wear them to but I just love them. I mean, you can wear them again. I’m not too fussy about being an outfit repeater. (Laughs) Also, it’s not really a thing here because it’s hot but in Australia, I’d splurge on really nice coats and stuff like that. I think they’re one of the better things to splurge on because they’ll last you forever. Dresses are a little less logical but I love them, so I’ll really splurge on them. (Laughs)
“I’m super excited for people to be able to hear [my songs] and for me to finally have something of my own. I haven’t really created anything of my own yet as my entrance into this industry. I guess that will be the first real thing that I get to do.”
What kind of clothes would you never ever be caught wearing?
I probably would not be caught wearing super loud color blocking or pattern-clashing clothes just because they don’t really fit my personality. But I can definitely appreciate them on other people. I guess I’m just really plain and more into the classic stuff. (Laughs)
Did your style shift when you moved to the Philippines?
A little bit, actually. I kind of tried to branch out a little bit more and I attribute that to the influence of my stepmom. She’s a little bit more outgoing with her style. She definitely has some really cool pieces in her wardrobe. When I first got here, she was really helpful. I didn’t really bring everything from Australia so she took me shopping. She definitely influenced me a little bit because I started to wear a bit more color. I actually have red in my closet now which is crazy. (Laughs) She inspired me to play around a bit more so I’d say I became a little more outgoing with what I wear since I moved here.