NBC Showcases Heartthrob with a Message

When Bella, the pro-life, award-winning independent film hit theaters last October, mainstream media outlets virtually ignored it.  On May 6, however, the day the Bella DVD was released, Today host Kathie Lee Gifford lavished attention on the film and the film's very attractive star, Eduardo Verastegui.  

Gifford went above and beyond the normal promotion given to movies and celebrities.  She gave Verastegui the opportunity to tell the remarkable story of how he came to participate in Bella. 


Verastegui explained to Gifford and co-host Hoda Kotb that “six years ago, I decided that I wanted to do only movies that matter. So, my friends and I, we started a production company called Metanoia Films, with a mission of making films that will have the potential to not only to entertain, but to make a difference.”

Gifford fleshed out more of Verastegui's story in the following exchange:

GIFFORD: And, again, I think probably, the experience of being in the boy band, like you did, you saw so close handedly, if that's the right word, what a stereotype -- what that was all about and how empty that was for you, right? I mean, after all the screaming fans and stuff, it's empty at the end of the day.

VERASTEGUI: I was 18 years old so I was very immature, you know, and- That's why I said in the beginning for ten years, the reasons why I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be a singer were very superficial reasons. Everything was about fame, success, money, pleasures and all that stuff.

GIFFORD: And once you got it all --

VERASTEGUI: Emptiness. I felt empty. The lifestyle I was living was not fulfilling. I needed to do something different in my career you know? And that's why I made a promise-

GIFFORD: And in your life.

VERASTEGUI: -that I will never do anything again, I will never use my talents again in any way that will offend my faith, my family or my Latino heritage. My mother, from now on, every single thing I do you and my grandmother will come and I never have to cover your eyes from A to Z. Which is very hard to do now, you know? 

Verastegui ultimately gave credit to his mother for his change in values.  He told Gifford and Kotb:

For ten years, I was completely lost. I lost perspective of everything. And my mother told my father one day, you know I'm afraid that I'm going to receive a call in the middle of the night with horrible news that our son isn't with us anymore. He's a rebel. They used to call me the impossible. She told my father, you know what? If he doesn't listen to my words anymore, if my words doesn't touch his heart anymore, my prayers will touch his heart one day. And I believe that the reason why six years ago, my life changed was because-- I believe that there's nothing more powerful than the prayers of the mother for their children.

Verastegui dismissed his heartthrob status, saying

[I]t's not about that. For me it's about how -- what you do and how do you use your talents? That's what makes me feel great. You know, when I wake up in the morning and I really don't focus on myself, but in the giving -- that's what matters. I cannot base success on something that is temporary and doesn't last – and doesn't last. I focus on the things that last forever. That's what really matters for me, you know.

Gifford and Kotb deserve kudos for spotlighting an actor who isn't afraid to say there's something greater than fame and fortune. 

Bella made over $8 million during its 27-week theatrical run.  As CMI reported last year, the movie grossed $8,024 per theater during its opening weekend, more per theater than the anti-war movies Valley of Elah, Rendition and The Kingdom made during their opening weekends.  Bella also won the Toronto Film Festival's People's Choice Award in 2006. 

At the time of this writing the Bella DVD was ranked number five on Amazon's best-seller list.  

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center