By Denise Roco - Gretchen Castelo Barretto takes pride in what she has and does not have. At the moment, she is keeping a happy home, reaping awards, taping a new teleserye and has launched a new fragrance under her name. What she does not have is time to waste.

Does the public have to know everything always? With the world all jumbled up, there are some things better left unsaid and left to the imagination. Undaunted at 41, Gretchen Barretto is a public figure yet a private person, a darling to some, a diva to many. Her face is ubiquitous on magazine covers, broadsheets, the Internet and TV. A singer, model, actress and also a mother and loving partner, her assets and facets are many, quite complex like her elusive character.

A dream is a wish your heart makes

Her desire to become an actress was sent out to the Universe when she was 10-years-old and apparently, the Universe responded with a wink as luck all fell into place right from the start. “My strength is my passion. My passion for life,” says Gretchen. A TV ad for Cinderella fashion store’s Made in Heaven label was her first broadcast appearance when she was 12. And shortly after, little Greta was on the jet plane to success as Regal Films’ Mother Lily Monteverde sought for a brand new circle of child stars and discovered Gretchen through advertising agency J Walter Thompson. Plus, being a host of the Sunday noontime variety show GMA Supershow in the ’70s helped ignite fame’s flame. From dance lessons to acting workshops, she learned what she had to learn. By 1984, her first film 14 Going Steady directed by Joey Gosiengfiao was released starring Benedict Aquino, Janice de Belen and Nadia Montenegro, who by the way is still a bosom friend.

The Reel Queen

With about 40 films under her name and adding another feather to her cap with the movie version of Jullie Yap Daza’s controversial book Etiquette for Mistresses, which audiences have yet to relish, Gretchen has been dubbed “The Screen Goddess of Philippine Cinema.” Having landed lead roles in Kung Tapos Na Ang Kailanman and Ama… Bakit Mo Ako Pinabayaan directed by Lino Brocka, one of the country’s greatest directors, says much about the actress who also takes pride in her dramatic role as Stella in Laurice Guillen’s Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin in 1992. The actress is not shackled only to one genre as she has clearly displayed that she can also shift into other molds like horror as seen in Jose Javier Reyes’ Matakot Ka Sa Karma and slip into sexy in Lihim ng Golden Buddha and Tukso Layuan Mo Ako.

Having been a game show host for TV5’s You and Me Against the World and ABS-CBN’s showbiz talk show The Buzz, she surprised many as well as herself when she won Best Single Performance by an Actress for the second consecutive year at the PMPC Star Awards for TV. The first was for an episode entitled “Salamin” in the drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya in 2008 and the second was for the episode “Larawan” in 2010.

Last year was beyond a trailblazing blast for Gretchen as she shone in her comeback teleserye Magkaribal where she starred as Victoria Valera, a fashion designer, battling a war through the runway to outdo Gelai Agustin (Bea Alonzo) as queen of Philippine fashion. Magkaribal recently won the 9th Gawad Tanglaw Awards for Best Drama series.

Born March 6, this talented Piscean is indeed a catch and one that swims against the current and out of the murky waters of controversy.

The heroine

Now, Gretchen wouldn’t be Gretchen without the spicy stories of intrigue that pepper her image. Greta in Metro Manila Film Fest Scam, why Greta walked out of the Glutamax press-con, why Greta walked out during Entertainment Live, Greta versus Angelica Panganiban, Greta: a diva in every sense of the word. These are just some of the headlines involving La Greta. Some are true and some are false. And how does she take it? With every ounce of grace there is. It’s an art Gretchen’s learned after 29 years of showbiz.


Greta loves to sing. She has released two full-length albums under Star Records. The 2008 debut album Unexpected, features 12 tracks of ballads while her sophomore release Complicated aptly describes her life, she reveals. Produced by composer Louie Ocampo, Complicated has two originals and is more of a pop album as opposed to her previous one. Greta loves fashion. Her style is chic and elegant. Her wardrobe is vast. By now it’s no wonder that within her reach is a collection from Escada to Zara and all the brands in between. Greta loves scents. She recently launched her fragrance eau de toilette Greta together with Ben Chan. The perfume wraps the senses both in a subtle and intense way, with a powerful mandarin scent in harmony with brilliant spicy accords of cardamom and coriander. The heart introduces jasmine with the spicy rhythm of nutmeg and woody-spicy cypress while the base uncovers notes of oak, mineral amber, and musky accords, which warm the composition, giving a delicate, luxury fragrant bottom layer. The scent clings to the skin and makes a sharp impression echoing her character.

Yin-Yang and forward thinking

Gretchen has come to a point of equilibrium. “It’s more peaceful at the homefront. It may not be perfect, but in the 17 years I’ve been together with Tony, I can say that we’re growing strong.” Keeping a careful eye on Dominique, her 15-year-old daughter with business magnate Tonyboy Cojuangco (photo at left), this mother is very protective over her unica hija’s privacy, perhaps because it’s something Gretchen did not so much have that she would like to give her daughter. She lives her life calmly from day to day sharing her idea of happiness, which is “self-fulfillment, self-respect, self-identity, knowing I could earn my own keep, being a mother, doing what I love to do which is of course being in showbiz, acting and singing. My source of happiness can be different every day and it varies.”

When asked about what her favorite comfort food is she reacts strongly and this writer lets the celebrity have the last word before the interview comes to a halt. “I hate the word favorite! It’s the worst term! We have the freedom to like many things. We are not married to one thing, whether it’s food, or a bag, or a place. The minute you say favorite it stifles me because I feel like, why do I have to choose? Why do I have to be pressured in having to say one thing when we can have it all, we can want it all?”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved