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Millennials have a “starter pack” of hashtags to categorize their life on social media. There’s #OOTDs for their current sartorial obsessions. There’s #ThrowbackThursday for things they want to be reminded of (such as how cute they were as babies). They’d caption #OnFleek for things that are, well, on point.
And then there’s #LifePeg for tagging successful people who they aspire to be, such as a popular radio jock, an influential blogger, a sought-after band vocalist, or simply someone who gets to travel all over the world with the love of her life.
Enter Saab Magalona, who happens to be all of the above. Everything about her and her life is on a millennial’s bucket list. At least, that’s according to her 277k+ followers on Instagram, half a million followers on Twitter, and the thousands who read her blog. Brands and businesses who collaborate with her for sponsored content seem to agree wholeheartedly, too.
In that sense Saab is not only a #LifePeg for this day and age, she’s #Goals.
THE BUSINESS OF BEING SAAB
Saab finds it weird when people ask her what she does. “I can’t really label myself,” she says. She’s always trying something new, and always surprising others – including her own self. Whatever she’s up to at the moment, it’s chronicled on her blog, Spell Saab.
She’s been blogging for 12 years now – longer than many other fashion or lifestyle bloggers out there. Sure, the public already had an idea of who Saab was – after all, she’s the daughter of Francis Magalona; she’s progeny of rap royalty. But rather than rely on the instant fame brought about by her last name, it was through her own words and thoughts that people got to know and love her.
Saab recalls how, before, there were only a few bloggers on a handful of platforms. But now, social media has exploded, and every other celebrity is also capitalizing on their online following. Still, Saab has managed to keep the followers that have been with her from the start and gain even more. She sticks to what she’s always done: being honest and generous with what she shares – from her relationships, to her gigs, and even her diet plans.
“All the fashion bloggers came out,” Saab says, “And I used to feel bad because I didn’t know anything about fashion, I didn’t like taking photos of myself. But I think that’s the thing I’m proudest of. I didn’t have to feel pressured into following the trend. I like what I like and it’s just like that.”
Saab would write about her favorite books and TV shows, and readers would ask for recommendations. She’d discuss her love for Doc Martens and get asked where she buys her limited-edition pairs. She’d do a makeup vlog, and get emails asking about what look would be appropriate for a debut or a graduation. Naturally, brands wanted a piece of the pie.
In an age where success is measured by social metrics, Saab likes to keep it as real as possible. “I know that I could be marketing myself in other ways and I would be getting more work but I’m so happy that just by being myself there are companies that want to work with me,” Saab says. “Doing what I love, doing what I do, there are these brands that actually value being true to one’s self.”
Until now, she still prefers not to know her actual traffic or follower count. There was a time, not long ago, when she stopped writing about her personal life. She had become too focused on avoiding any topic that might offend or clash with brand requests. “Then, I realized the reason why my readers have stayed with me through all these years is because they do like me being candid,” she says. “I don’t have to say sorry for what I’m thinking.”
Her mom Pia is her manager, acting as a bridge for collaborations and inquiries. But when it comes to what Saab writes, tweets, says, or does, nothing is checked or pre-created. “It’s really just me. I only have to ask her if my schedule permits it. She encourages me… I’m really so lucky that I have her to guide me because she chooses all the right projects,” Saab says.
Today, she’s simply motivated to inspire her readers. “I’m not saying I’m a role model,” she clarifies. But, she acknowledges that aside from her responsibilities as an endorser or what-have-you, girls in high school do read whatever she posts. “I always think my best market is my little sister. She does read my blog, and I have to be careful of what I put out there.”
“She’s building an airplane/ All over the world/ Conducting her own train/ She don’t even need to try so hard…” – Newspaper Girl, Cheats
THE JOY OF BEING SAAB
Being a writer is not a strictly 9-to-5 job, although Saab insists that she still follows a system: “I do have work hours in my head, like, ‘you can’t play video games until 7PM’,” Still, she’s got more freedom than most to pursue other passions, such as music. It’s futile to ignore the genetic references; her father Francis, after all, is one of the most successful MCs of the 1990s. Most would point out that it’s expected. Few would recognize how much hard work Saab actually puts into fulfilling the dream. Twice a week, Saab hosts a radio show on Jam 88.3. Her band plays regularly around the city. Both commitments entail research, rehearsals, and the grit to show up to work even if you’re nursing a cold or just not feeling “up.”
Still, this girl makes all the effort seem fun. The hosting gig, she gets to do with her best friend. The band, she gets to do with her best friend AND her husband. Is there anything not ideal about her life?
“I really think what brought me to where I am now and what I’m doing is really choosing to be happy,” Saab says. “[It’s] making all the decisions to really just choose the path of happiness.”
That path led her to her current band Cheats, which just released their first EP earlier this year. Recently, the band reached a major milestone by becoming the first Filipino band invited to play at Laneway Singapore, the biggest music festival in Southeast Asia. The band is feeling the pressure, but Saab is taking it in stride. “We hope we make them proud and that they don’t question why we got in,” she says. Then she backpedals: “Actually, I do know: it’s because we make good music. I’m very confident in saying that.” Saab, together with her bandmates, put in a lot of hard work just to get noticed: hours of rehearsals and song writing sessions, playing weekly gigs, and submitting demos to various agents. Now, all the effort has paid off big time.
She also fell in love with the Cheats’ front liner, Jim Bacarro. They just tied the knot last year. “He is part of the reason why I became a happier person,” Saab admits. She used to be more pessimistic, but Jim would call her out on it. “I think we balance each other out,” she adds. Case in point: Jim has always dreamed of giving up the corporate life, and it was Saab who finally persuaded him to do it and co-start a business. The two are now enjoying the perks of managing their own time, together: Recently, they went on an extended tour around Europe.
6 years ago, her dad Francis passed away. “I could’ve easily gone down the wrong path; spiraled down [then],” Saab says. “But what I chose to do was to really put my mom first. Everything I did was to make her happy and proud.”
These days, there’s certainly no shortage of things for Pia to be happy and proud of: the cheeky girl who used to be known as Francis M’s little girl has certainly come into her own and made a name for herself as a creative force. She is not afraid to speak up for herself, and in doing so, she has become the voice of her generation: millenials who are not tied down by labels or expectations, or traditional notions of success.
So how does Saab attain her own set of #Goals? “You have to choose to do something that gives you happiness,” she says. “You have to choose to do something that is making a difference in this world, even in just a small way.”
For Saab, that something is simply finding joy in being herself, and consequently, inspiring others to fulfill their #Goals just like her. “If that’s the most I could do in this world, then that’s something to be proud of,” she says. – Rappler.com
Photographs by Shutterpanda | Shot on location at EDSA BDG