Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Anna Arco

9/18/2009 (5 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

The Mexican film star Eduardo Verástegui tells Anna Arco that discovering the emptiness of fame led him to his life's true calling.

Pictured: Eduardo Verástegui.

Pictured: Eduardo Verástegui.

Highlights

By Anna Arco

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

9/18/2009 (5 years ago)

Published in Americas


LONDON (UK Catholic Herald) - Perhaps it is appropriate that I meet Eduardo Verástegui on the steps of Westminster Cathedral. The Mexican actor/producer is late for the interview because he's been at the other end of town outside an abortion clinic and wants to go to Mass before he gets on the plane back to Los Angeles. Just as he was becoming a rising star on the Latino scene in Hollywood, starring in films like Chasing Papi and featuring in a Jennifer Lopez music video, Verástegui had a radical conversion and has since become an important figure in the pro-life movement. He's just been to Walsingham for the Youth 2000 prayer festival where he addressed over 1,000 young people.

After Mass we settle in Starbucks. It's easy to see why People magazine once counted him among "the hottest 50 Latinos". Under black eyebrows and hair, his deep blue eyes are startling but surprisingly calm. He carries his good looks with easy grace, dressed in chinos and loafers. At the same time it's conceivable that the string which peeps out from under his blue jumper might just belong to a scapular.

Born in a small town in northern Mexico to a farming family, the eldest of four, Verástegui says he was raised a Catholic but was lukewarm about his faith.

"I thought, I'm not a saint but I'm not a criminal, I'm a good person, I'm not perfect but God loves me and I love him," he says: "My Catholic faith was not the centre of my life, not because I didn't want it to be but because I just didn't know my faith enough. You can't love what you don't know."

From Xicotencal he went to law school in the same province of Tamaulipas, to please his father, but dropped out because he wasn't passionate about it. Aged 18, and against his parents' wishes, he moved to Mexico City to pursue his dream of being an actor and singer. He took modelling jobs, started studying acting and a year later he joined a boy band, Kairo. They were pretty big - like a Mexican version of *NSYNC - and for the next three-and-a-half years he toured across Latin America with the band.

He still felt restless, so he thought he'd try to break into the soap-opera market, but, he says, "it was still not enough". So the ambitious young actor moved to Miami, "the capital of Latino culture and music", to return to singing, but this time on his own. His big break came on a flight between Miami and Los Angeles where he met Christian Kaplan, a casting director for 20th Century Fox in Hollywood. He invited Verástegui to take part in an audition.

"It was my biggest dream since I was a boy in Xicotencal, my home town, that one day I would go to Hollywood and make a movie. Finally I was so close to achieving the dream, but I told him that I didn't speak English," he says. His new acquaintance urged him to memorise the text and audition regardless. He got the part, moved to LA and immersed himself in the language. While on set Jennifer Lopez picked Verástegui to star as her gipsy lover in a music video. It was followed by the lead role in Chasing Papi (which had mixed reviews). Finally, it seemed, Verástegui had made it. Ten years of working hard were beginning to pay off. He hired a team of managers, agents, lawyers.

"After all that I was very confused because I realised that all the things that I had achieved, that I thought were going to bring me happiness, didn't. I felt I had everything in my life, but then on the other side, in my heart, I had nothing. I was very empty and very confused and very lost. Something was missing in my life and I didn't know what it was. So I wanted to do something more meaningful in my career. I was looking for the truth in the wrong places," he says.

The entertainment industry had entranced him and he was caught up "in the dictatorship of relativism that the Pope talks about". He says that he believed there was no such thing as one truth and that everybody had their own truth.

Hiring his English teacher changed his life. Not only did she teach him English, but also, as a devout Catholic, started teaching him about his faith. She drew him out with questions. Noticing that he wore a rosary around his neck - for decoration - she asked if he was Catholic. For six months she grilled him with questions: What are you doing with your life? Where are you going? Who is guiding you?

"She gave me English classes and she was also evangelising me in a very subtle sort of way," says Verástegui. She also challenged him to start questioning Latino stereotypes in the American media.

"From the 1940s onwards Latinos have been portrayed in a negative light in Hollywood. They are the drug dealers, the banditos, the drunkards, the unfaithful husbands, the prostitutes etc etc. And if you are good-looking, you are the Don Juan, the Casanova, the Latin lover. That's all you get. Since I started my career, I was cast as a sex symbol, the Latin lover, reduced to an object."

Verástegui felt there were not enough heroes in film, especially not Latino ones - men of virtue, fathers, husbands, saints. He wanted to be a saint in the mould put forward by Pope John Paul II, a light in the darkness. After his conversion, the life that surrounded him, the films that he had made, seemed largely immoral and he realised it was almost impossible to be a practising Catholic in Hollywood.

Ready to serve God, he prepared to go to Brazil and work with the indigenous people in the Amazon. He went to tell his priest and was surprised when the latter was not as enthusiastic about the project as he was. The priest told him to stay in Hollywood because he was needed there.

Verástegui vowed to God only to ever work on projects which reflected his beliefs and for four years, having started to taste fame and success, he was just another out-of-work actor. He was struggling to pay the rent from month to month, but he says he was happy, going through a process of purification.

"I realised that I wasn't born to be a movie star or an actor or a lawyer. I was born to know and to love and to serve Jesus Christ," he says. He explains that he went through a lot of tears, guilt, and grief after his first Confession. "It broke my heart to realise that I was offending God with the talents he gave me."

Later, things were going rather badly in worldly terms when Verástegui received a call from his priest, who told him to come to Rome. At the time, the actor was out of money and told his confessor that he could probably not afford to come. But providence and the priest intervened and Verástegui met Pope John Paul II.

In 2005 he set up the Guadalupe Foundation, a charity which helps pregnant women to keep their babies, provides housing for the poorest in Mexico and works towards improving the perception of Latinos in the diaspora.

Together with some like-minded friends he started Metanoia Films, a production company which set out to make films with positive messages. Their first film, Bella, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, deals with a young girl in desperate circumstances considering an abortion. It unexpectedly won a People's Choice Award and great acclaim.

At the moment, Metanoia is putting together a fund of $100 million in order to invest in between five and seven new films. They will be diverse, Verástegui says, but "all with the same heart and soul, with the potential to change the culture of death to a culture of life". By December they hope to have three scripts ready, one of which is going to be a life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Verástegui's coffee is cold, because he's spoken so much, so eagerly and earnestly that he has barely had a chance to drink it. As we wrap up the interview, the people at the next table ask where he's from._When I say that he's from Mexico, they say: "He should be a film star, he's ever so handsome. Is he a film star?" They catch his eye and he gives them a big smile. They are delighted.

He tells them about Bella, and how he plans to bring it to Britain. They promise to look out for it. He has clearly just made their day. Then, it's time for him to go. He's got a flight to catch back to LA and he's already spoken for too long.



Comments


More Americas

Is the Cold War over? Congress pushes for end of restrictions on travel with Cuba Watch

Image of President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro have been working together to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama's inroads into warming relations between the United States and Cuba is being supported by a bipartisan group of Senators, who on Thursday unveiled a bill that would end travel restrictions for Americans who wish to visit Cuba. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Castro making demands: Won't budge an inch on Cuban sovereignty in opening relations to U.S. Watch

Image of

By Troy Dredge, Catholic Online

Cuban President Raul Castro, brother of longtime dictator Fidel Castro appears to welcome normalizing U.S. relations. His compatriots wish to end the isolation that was visited upon the Caribbean nation since the communists took over in the 1950s. However - ... continue reading


IT'S MINE! Traders, tycoons and miners all vying for possession of Brazil's 180,000-carat Bahia Emerald Watch

Image of For the time being, the gem is now held in an undisclosed Sheriff's Department location.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ever since human eyes laid upon it in 2001, Brazil's Bahia Emerald has been caught in an ongoing tug of war between those who say the gem is rightfully theirs. Landing in an L.A. County sheriff's locker, the 180,000-carat, 840-pound behemoth has been the ... continue reading


THE RISE OF WOMEN: Negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba begin with two influential women leading the way Watch

Image of Jacobson and Vidal cover everything from human rights to tourist travels during the beginning of negotiations between Cuba and the U.S.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama recently loosened the embargo the United States has with Cuba. Now the next step is to negotiate and work towards less hostility and normalizing the relationship between the two countries. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At the base of these ... continue reading


Murderous gang violence plagues El Salvador every day with no end in sight, ambitious new plan offers hope Watch

Image of Gangs run the streets in El Salvador, often leaving people terrified to be out at night.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

412 people were murdered in El Salvador during December 2014. A total of 3,942 murders occurred last year in what is now the most dangerous country in the world. A 57 percent increase than those killed in 2013. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Violent gangs have ... continue reading


AMAZING discovery - mummy mask contains fragment of the Gospel of Mark Watch

Image of A fragment of the Gospel of Mark has been found used in the mask, making it the oldest known example of Holy Scripture yet found.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A mask is frequently used to conceal an identity. This is certainly the case of a mask used to cover up a mummy. A fragment of the Gospel of Mark has been found used in the mask, making it the oldest known example of Holy Scripture yet found. Created before 90 ... continue reading


A good or bad idea? Under the Obama administration, U.S. softens embargo with Cuba Watch

Image of Cuban flags fly high as embargo is loosened.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The relationship between the United States and Cuba will soon change as the Obama administration begins to slowly erase the 1962 U.S. embargo against Cuba. An increased amount of travel and trading between the two countries will open up. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Five years later Haiti still tragically suffers from 2010's earthquake: Where did $13.5 billion dollars in relief funds go? Watch

Image of Much of Haiti remains devastated after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010, despite raising $13.5 dollars in relief funds.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake rattled Haiti in 2010 destroying nearly everything, and leaving 220,000 people dead and 300,000 injured. The entire world was shaken by this disaster; 13.5 billion dollars in donations and pledges was raised to help the country recover. LOS ... continue reading


CANNIBAL RITUAL: Mexican cartel members forced to eat human hearts Watch

Image of Arguably the country's most horrific organized crime gang, Michoacan state suffers daily from ongoing battles between rival factions.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Decapitating and ripping apart their still-living victims, the dreaded Knights Templar Mexican drug cartel forced members to devour the hearts of its enemies. The Knights Templar, reigning over Michoacan state, has kept the region in its iron grip by armed ... continue reading


Brazil looks forward to 2016 Olympics, but should their government be looking closer to home? Watch

Image of Brazil's drug trade primarily is based on cocaine and marijuana, and many slums in the cities are devoted and run to the drug trafficking gangs.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Vila Alianca, an unofficial section of Rio de Jeneiro,  is an enclave of violence and organized crime, and one of the regions that the Brazilian government has not decided to try to pacify prior to their hosting of the 2016 Olympics. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


All Americas News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
1 Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope ... Read More

Psalm, Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75
69 and he has established for us a saving power in ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 4:35-41
35 With the coming of evening that same day, he said ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 31st, 2015 Image

St. John Bosco
January 31: What do dreams have to with prayer? Aren't they just random ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter