Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Anna Arco

9/18/2009 (4 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 (4 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

CHILD LABOR HORROR: Ten-year-old children can now be put to work in Bolivia Watch

Image of Ten-year-olds will be able to work as long as they are under parental supervision and also attend school. Twelve is now the minimum age for a child to work under contract. Those children would also have to attend school.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Long a blight of many civilized nations, the South American nation of Bolivia has become the first nation to legalize child labor for children as young as 10 years old. Congress approved the legislation early this month, and Vice President Alvaro Garcia signed ... continue reading


Watch out America! China invades South America with epic trade deal Watch

Image of Brazil is one of the countries that is seeing a massive economic boom, and has made major deals with China in the last few years.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

China is expanding its trade partnership with Brazil, with a $7.5 billion financing agreement with Brazilian miner Vale, the purchase of 60 passenger jets from Brazilian plane maker Embraer, and renewed commitment to invest in Brazil's infrastructure. LOS ... continue reading


Looking good for your age? Try this Brazilian who's 126 Watch

Image of Jose Aguinelo dos Santos was reportedly born on July 7, 1888, a recently released birth certificate says. If true, at 126 years old, he would be the oldest person alive.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Brazilian man may hold the distinction of being the oldest living person in the world after he received a birth certificate showing that he turned 126 last week. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Jose Aguinelo dos Santos was born on July 7, 1888 to two former ... continue reading


Putin meets with Fidel Castro and his brother: Russia and Cuba to work together Watch

Image of Cuba and Russia at one time enjoyed one of the firmest Cold War alliances. That relationship ended abruptly with the collapse of the Soviet bloc at the start of the 1990s.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Cuban President Raul Castro, joined by his ailing brother Fidel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both Putin and his Cuban counterpart signed a slew of agreements expanding cooperation between the two countries. Russia has been the communist island's ... continue reading


The only clear winner in the World Cup - is Univison Watch

Image of Legions of soccer fans used Univision's free streaming to covertly watch games on their office computers or cellphones.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Whatever side of the fence you're on with the World Cup - along with the worldwide televised phenomenon it's quickly become, it's clear that the only real winner will be Univision. It's a gamble that paid off. Taking half-a-million dollars, the Spanish language ... continue reading


Peruvian government makes abortions easier to obtain Watch

Image of Women who become  pregnant as a result of the crime of rape are not allowed an abortion in Peru because the child in the womb is also recognized as having a right to life. The U.N. is attempting to coerce Peru to change its laws to allow abortion in cases of rape.The legislators of Peru do not want to promote another crime in response to horrendous crime of rape. The death of the child would also be a criminal act.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Peru may be making the procurement of an abortion easier. The South American nation, along with  many others on the continent, have had very stringent laws on taking the life of a child in the womb through procured abortion. Every procured abortion always ... continue reading


Nicaragua canal will be 'the biggest [project] built in the history of humanity' Watch

Image of Workers supervise the dredging of the Río San Juan in Nicaraugua.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hailed as "the biggest [project] built in the history of humanity," the Nicaraguan government and the Hong Kong-based HKND Group plans to build a canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. A route has been settled upon, stretching 173 miles from Punta ... continue reading


Amazon rainforest may have been a savannah just 2,000 years ago Watch

Image of As little as 2,000 years ago, the parts of the Amazon rainforest might have actually been savannah, new evidence suggests.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Researchers have recently revealed that parts of the immense Amazon rainforest may have been grassland until just about 2,000 years ago, citing that a shift to a wetter climate may have been the culprit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The study, which ... continue reading


'Flying saucer' spotted in Chile, called 'official UFO' Watch

Image of The agency ruled out the possibility of any meteorological phenomena, including lenticular clouds, along with experimental aircraft, planes and weather balloons.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Chilean officials don't know what it is, but it's been classified as an official unidentified flying object, or UFO. The pictures so far make it look like the flying saucers of yore. Spotted by four engineers above a remote copper mine, a Chilean government ... continue reading


Honduras continues to battle cocaine traffickers in tribal regions Watch

Image of Tribal Hondurans have been used to create landing strips for cocaine traffickers in Honduras.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A village leader in La Mosquitia, a remote corner of northeastern Honduras, first thought that outsiders were offering food and cash for his community to clear rain forest for cattle ranching. But when the men returned, they cut down trees and blasted out roots ... 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, Jeremiah 13:1-11
1 Yahweh said this to me, 'Go and buy a linen ... Read More

Psalm, Deuteronomy 32:18-19, 20, 21
18 (You forget the Rock who fathered you, the God who ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:31-35
31 He put another parable before them, 'The kingdom ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 28th, 2014 Image

St. Innocent I
July 28: Innocent was born at Albano, Italy. He became Pope, succeeding ... 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