Solenn Heussaff is one tough girl.
Even with TV tapings, magazine photo shoots and a self-titled solo album released under MCA Universal Philippine, she finds the time to do Bikram yoga, Planaforma, and the cross-training regimen called Plyometrics. She describes Plyometrics as three hours of intense, but fun, sets of exercises that make the hours fly by. Solenn used to alternate between Plana Forma and Bikram five times a week, but has since scaled it down to three times a week.
In three week’s time, with her doctor’s blessing, she’ll be able to resume doing Bikram, a 90-minute yoga routine consisting of 26 poses done inside a heated room (a very toasty 40 degrees Celsius). It helps the body achieve a better degree of strength and flexibility, tones core muscles, flushes toxins out through intense sweating, and develops the kind of mental toughness you get from pushing yourself to do better each time you step into that hot zone. While some poses can’t be done standing on her left foot, this restless girl is raring to be active again.
Right now she’s recovering from an injury, her left foot wrapped in bandages. Because of her operation last week she limps across the studio floor and needs to use a crutch to get around. She changes wardrobe awkwardly, hopping on her good foot and through the handful of hours never utters a word of complaint.
Half-Pinay, half-French, all trooper. Hardcore comes to mind, as well.
Reality show souvenir
“This was an injury from Survivor Philippines: Celebrity Showdown, when a piece of glass got into my foot and a doctor in Thailand sewed up the wound,” she says, waving at the bandaged extremity. “It just hurt and my mom said maybe I should get it checked because I was complaining about it all the time? I said: ‘No more, mom, I’ll be so embarrassed in front of the doctor.’”
Survivor CS was shot in mid-2010. The piece of glass, that fragment of reality show shrapnel, was still inside the wound that had been sewn shut and Solenn had been walking and working since then. Through the occasional stabbing pain, her foot had adjusted to the foreign object by forming a callous of flesh around it.
She shrugs, “So I left it alone for a year until it became black.” This prompted her to quickly get to a doctor and an immediate outpatient operation. The bandaged foot doesn’t even hinder her from goofing off. At one point, she even dances. She mimics a Middle Eastern veil dance, tongue-in-cheek with the long, flowing length of her red dress—and it’s hilarious, charming, and hypnotic all at once.
“The doctor asked me if I wanted to take a general anaesthetic,” she explains. “I told him he doesn’t need to put me to sleep because I have a high tolerance for pain. During the operation I asked them if I could take pictures and a nurse volunteered to do it.”
Hence the photos circulating on Twitter of the piece of glass wrapped in a fleshy, off-white ball being drawn by forceps from Solenn’s foot. It’s a pretty intense picture that may elicit a visceral reaction. It makes some people feel like they just browsed through a manual of surgical techniques.
“The doctor also said I should use crutches and not put too much weight on the foot,” then she laughs as if to say following this recovery rule to the letter would be almost impossible. Even if she’s required to recover for a month or so, she triumphantly declares: “Now it’s gone forever!”
Solenn has six tattoos, one of which is a mantra on her rib that proclaims in French: If I fall, I will rise again.
Luminous presence and talent
Solenn Marie Adea Heussaff is the second child of Laguna-born Cynthia Adea and Louis Paul Heussaff (a former French Merchant Marine of Celtic/Breton descent). Solenn means “goddess of the moon.” It’s from the Greek word “selena.”
She graduated from the European International School of Manila and went on to study fashion design in Paris, at Studio Berçot for three years. Then she proceeded to a half-year course in basic beauty and fashion make-up, body painting, and prosthetics at Ecole Fleurimont. Not satisfied, she then continued at the Make-Up Forever Academy.
Aside from being a professional fashion designer and licensed make-up artist, Solenn is now the “it” girl of TV (as a talent of GMA Network), slowly rising to the forefront of popular culture consciousness from her fairly low-key work as a TV commercial and print model throughout the noughties.
What really cemented her fame was being one of the castaways of 2010’s Survivor CS, and from there making it to GMA-7 shows like Captain Barbell and her make over show Fashbook. This year’s Temptation Island remake puts Solenn alongside other current showbiz babes like Marian Rivera, Heart Evangelista, Lovi Poe, and the inimitable Rufa Mae Quinto.
One source of pride: her debut album features a collaboration with Rico Blanco, the same singer-songwriter lending his voice as backup vocals on that track. Apart from admiring OPM talents like Razorback and Wolfgang, Solenn gravitates towards vocalists like Adele, Duffy, and Amy Winehouse—British soulful singers who can bring so much oomph and spark into a melody. She describes her album using her “naturally raspy” voice as a mix of a few covers, some personal favourites, “chill, roadtrip kind of stuff.”
The cowboy approach to life, Solenn-style
The story goes that Solenn went to Divisoria to explore the thrift shops with a girlfriend and they both ended up at a mass in Baclaran Church. Because it was a Sunday, the place was packed. Sure enough, someone recognized her eventually, though she kept her head down and motioned to those who saw to please be silent.
“I told them ‘ssshhhh,’” she smiles and talks in that fast-paced, near stream-of-consciousness with a slight French emphasis on the consonants. “If [people] knew the real me they’d see I’m really cowboy and game to do anything.”