Do not mistake the Gutierrez clan for the Kardashians, says ex-Miss Philippines Ruffa Gutierrez, who stars in a new reality TV show with her family.
The Kardashians, she declares, were nobodies before their show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, while her brood were already celebrities in their own right.
"The show made the Kardashians famous. But we were already celebrities and the show depicts how it is like to be immersed in the life of a celebrity," Ruffa, 39, told Life! on Sunday at Resorts World Sentosa, where she was filming the six-part show.
It Takes Gutz To Be A Gutierrez traces the lives of patriarch Eddie Gutierrez, 72, a veteran actor in the Philippines; his wife Annabelle Rama, 61, who runs a talent management company; and the couple's children, including Ruffa and her twin brothers Richard, a matinee idol, and television host Raymond, both 30.
Gutierrez admits that she has never watched a single episode of the Kardashians' show.
But it was not for lack of trying, she says, as she had bought six seasons' worth of DVDs in the United States. However, the discs failed to work in the Philippines, which requires a different security code.
"I have tried, trust me, but maybe it is a good thing. The Kardashians are very big and popular all over the world. We didn't want to be second-rate copycats, but would rather have our own style," she says.
Her family's reality show will air here on E! (StarHub TV Channel 441) in June and is produced by Emmy award- winning Filipino television producer and director Michael Carandang, of America's Next Top Model fame.
Carandang was a "strict" boss on set, according to Gutierrez, who recalls asking the crew to turn off the camera during some emotional family moments but filming would continue unheeded.
"The show is really reality," she says. "Michael has worked with Tyra Banks, so he is like, 'Listen, woman, I don't care what you say, I will keep filming'.
"I'm just Ruffa, clearly not at Tyra Banks' level yet."
She and her family pitched the show last year and filming started this month, with stops in Malaysia, Thailand, Manila and Singapore.
Filming the series also gave way to sweet family moments, especially as the whole Gutierrez brood have not gathered for their weekly Sunday gatherings for the past two years.
Filming the show has made these gatherings possible, says Gutierrez.
The show will also feature her daughters with her ex-husband, Turkish businessman Yilmaz Bektas: Venice, nine, and Lorin, 10.
Exposing them to television cameras is part and parcel of being in a show business family, she says.
"Our life is an open book and I think there is nothing wrong with it because it just shows our family and Venice and Lorin are part of the family."
When asked if the show marks her comeback, Gutierrez, who was previously linked to a film festival awards swindle in the early 1990s, says her triumphant return took place in 2007 when she left Bektas and went home to the Philippines.
"I'm proud because I raised the kids on my own. Even if things did not go well between us and I did not take a single penny from him, I am still managing to take care of the kids.
"I left everything to get married and when I returned, the Filipino people and people in Asia accepted me with open arms and gave me the work I have now... and I am very happy."
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