20 Questions With Rissa Mananquil-Trillo
The mom and model on building a beauty empire and managing to stay fit.
IMAGE Kai Huang

You have a teenager and two little girls and yet have always been in tiptop shape. What’s your secret?
Being a hands-on mom exercises both the mind and body. Ha ha!

Exercise routine?
My abdominal muscles weakened after two consecutive pregnancies—it felt like I was doing crunches every time I sneezed or coughed! So I started doing Pilates at Options Studio in Greenhills. It’s the first Pilates facility located within a chiropractic setting so it was also perfect for my lower back. You can already feel the difference with just the first few sessions. You’ll discover muscles you never knew you had. But I also credit my current body shape to breastfeeding. It worked wonders to get me back to my pre-pregnancy weight even before I started Pilates.

What do you usually wear to work?
Dresses. These are the fashion items I turn to with confidence. They work for me when I don’t know what to wear. They flow over a woman’s flaws and hug the right places. They are reliable pieces that never fail to make a woman feel remarkable.

What’s always in your handbag?
My favorite Montblanc pen and at least two to three shades of our bestselling Happy Skin Shut Up & Kiss Me moisturizing lippies. The skin on the lips is one of the thinnest and doesn’t secrete natural oils, so it doesn’t have the ability to keep itself moisturized.

How did you come up with the idea for Happy Skin?
It has always been my dream to have my own makeup line. Not the kind that merely attaches my name on the packaging but the kind which allows me to be hands-on with creating, formulating, testing everything from the start. I’ve been modeling for 15 years and have had every imaginable makeup brand on my face. Many of them instantly prettify you, but the biggest beauty woe is going home with ruined skin. As a beauty columnist, I’ve also road-tested countless beauty products. Partnering with Jacqe Yuengtian-Gutierrez, who previously handled big beauty brands at Unilever, allowed me to make this dream come true and offer so much more to make the Filipina feel effortlessly more beautiful.

Tell us about the brand.
Women invest in expensive moisturizers and creams only to break out when we use makeup. So we created a makeup line that actually cares for your skin. All the best skincare products in the world will be put to waste if you don’t use good quality makeup that also takes care of your skin. Truly good makeup should be your ally, not your enemy, in making you look and feel more beautiful.


How do you come up with new Happy Skin products season after season?
It’s women’s wishes and complaints that inspire our products. We listen to our market.

Most far-out idea yet?
A makeup brush case that automatically cleans your brushes after every use!

You’ve been modeling for years, yet you’ve said you never thought that would happen because you had been teased as a child. Tell us about that.
I was called a lot of names growing up. I never really thought I could be a model until a Benetton campaign gave me the chance. I guess after receiving so many labels, what you do is accept these names and labels and transcend them. That was my mindset. I wanted to go beyond all these labels and prove everyone wrong. My barkada is called the UDC. What does it mean? The Ugly Duckling Crew. It all started when one of our kabarkada’s boyfriends saw all our old high school photos and teased us on our looks. With our buckteeth, braces, excess facial hair, pimpled round faces, oily skin, baduy ill-fitting clothes and the most horrible haircuts, he said we were all ugly ducklings! And so the Ugly Duckling Crew was born.

Today, we continue to call ourselves the UDC. It’s a wonderful reminder to never be insecure of how you look, no matter how pretty you think your friends are. You'll later realize that you have turned from that seemingly ugly duckling into the prettiest swan of them all! 

Rissa and her youngest daughter Audra

And you have time to write for the Philippine Star too. What’s it like having your mom, Millet Mananquil, as an editor?
When it comes to deadlines and requirements, she is my boss and not my mother. But it was she who gave me my love for reading and writing. 

Were you given any great advice today?
Yes, by my daughter Celestia. “Smile, Mommy!” she always says. 

What was the prettiest thing you saw today?
A vase of fresh flowers and my two daughters giggling together. 

Tell me a bit about your kids.
Enzo is an amazing kuya, like a third parent to Celestia and Audra. He has a natural love for cooking and whips up the most unexpected yet creative dishes. #mychefenzo

Celestia is a ball of energy, loves to sing and dance, very affectionate, and has an astonishing memory for detail. A great ate to Audra! When I was pregnant, Celestia would always hug and kiss my belly. Now, she constantly asks if she can help take care of the baby. #celestiatrillo


And Audra—our doctors thought she looked like Celestia when she was born, but she now looks like Paolo. Her own personality is shining through. She’s the youngest but the most assertive, smiles easily, and loves to explore. #audratrillo 

See any of them following in your footsteps?
I can’t say right now. But they have my support no matter what they decide to pursue. 

Enzo and Celestia picking strawberries; and Celestia posing with younger sister Audra.

How do you entertain?
With homecooked meals by my husband, Paolo, and my son, Enzo, who both love to cook. 

Any guilty pleasure today?
Chocolates. My weakness. 

Greatest extravagance?
Travel and good food. 

Pet peeve?
People who do it the easy way, instead of doing it the right way.

Love of your life?
Paolo Trillo. He’s as sweet as the first day we met. He makes me feel like every day is like the first day of our relationship. 

What do you hope to dream about?
My next travel destination with my husband and children. These are our favorite bonding moments! When I’m with them, I’m at my happiest.

Rissa and her husband, Paolo Trillo, in Japan.
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Yvette Fernandez
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