Before she came under the umbrella of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic, her recurring roles on several GMA-7 shows like Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin, Ang Iibigin Ay Ikaw and in the fantaserye Etheria started her off on the path of a life virtually always on set at a very tender age in the year 2000.
True family values and passion
It’s not easy to be a child star. We need only look to Hollywood for the excesses and pressure that brings fragile eggshell minds to the brink of exhaustion and yearning for escape. The current poster kid for child stars gone awry is Lindsay Lohan—whose downward spiral is oft described as the fall of an angel from truly great heights. Ah, there but for the grace of God goes Empress.
Fortunately, good old family values and a true passion for acting kept her on the straight and narrow.
Discovered by ABS-CBN at 8 years old, by 11, Empress was already a veteran on TV, having already appeared in Bida Si Mister, Bida Si Misis, the Emmy-nominated fantaserye Super Inggo, and Mars Ravelo’s Lastikman. She bagged her first movie at the age of 9, on 9 Mornings, winning Best Child Actress for her role at the 2003 FAMAS Awards. “Showbiz para sa akin ay good stress,” she shrugs. “Literal s’ya na nakaka-pagod, nakaka-puyat pero dahil masaya ka doing your job, it’s good. Kahit pagod ka, naka-ngiti ka. Passion ko talaga s’ya. I really love acting.”
Born in 1993 to a German father and a Pinay mother, Empress Karen Carreon Schuck grew up watching soaps and the stars of noontime and primetime dramas, the seed of the celluloid shine impressed on her germinating to fruition.
“Bata pa lang ako, kapag pinapanood ko sina Kristine Hermosa and Judy Ann Santos, gusto ko talaga gawin yung ginagawa nila,” she exclaims. “Di ko inabutan si Ate Juday pero alam ko that she’s one of the pinaka-magaling na actors natin. Lalo na yung kay Kristine Hermosa na Pangako Sa ’Yo. Sabi ko: ‘Gusto kong maging ganyan!’”
Discipline and its rewards
This girl who loves electronica and R&B never saw herself as the bad girl, but has earned the title “Empress of Drama,” for her history with, and recurring roles in, daily soaps. She idolizes pop queen Beyoncé, saying “Parehas kasi kami ng hita. Sexy pa rin s’ya kahit malaki s’ya so parang naging inspiration ko s’ya ever since.”
Her diet is malleable, a 20-year-old metabolism working wonders with regular gym work. “Nagdi-diet ako kapag may pinapag-handaan,” she says. “For three weeks parang cleansing diet. Fruits usually, walang kanin at pork. Walang sweets. Panay steamed chicken at fish at wheat bread. ’Yun ang diet every day kapag may kailangan.”
Then, there’s her current grind that’s more or less loose compared to other soap schedules: three days off and then some. Their tapings for Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., and she also has the noontime variety show ASAP every Sunday. Power naps are her answer to the necessity of sleeplessness.
“Kapag [Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday] at walang schedule on those days, pwede akong magising ng kahit anong oras,” she says. “Pero mahirap kapag dire-diretso yung buong week mo ay puno. Pero mabilis ako makatulog, so kapag break tuwing taping nakakapag-power nap ako. Pati sa kotse mabilis ako makatulog. Pagkatapos noon okay na ako na hindi na kailangan ng four to five hours na tulog. Sanay na yung system. I think isang reason dun ay dahil maaga ako nag-start sa showbiz.”
Workouts are also relegated to her free days when she does Meta-Fit routines—a lighter and more manageable version of the intense Cross-Fit exercises.
“Masyadong intense ang Cross-Fit!” she laughs. “Kapag free day ko usually nag-gym ako. Pero kapag sobrang pagod ko, hindi na. Skip muna. Maganda rin na mataas pa ang metabolism ko kasi at my age nagagawa ko pa lahat ng pinapagawa sa akin na workout.”
These workout days also double as chill out downtime, when she goes to the salon and gets her facials and pampering done, sometimes the full nine yards: foot spa, manicure, pedicure, hair and what have you. The only exception is the full body massage—something that, for some reason she can’t articulate, Empress doesn’t find relaxing.