Eduardo Verastegui, 34, has done it all. He’s experienced the highs of being in a successful boy band, Kairos, and a soap opera tv star back in his homeland of Mexico, where he was born in a small village.
He had it all – fame, fortune, money, women – yet at 28 he felt empty. Some deep, probing questions from someone close to him forced him to look deep inside himself to answer the ultimate question: Do you love God?
Today, Eduardo is a changed man. He vowed to never again contribute to the culture of death with his movies, formed his own production company and produced the life-affirming movie, Bella, which won top prize at the Toronto Film Festival.
In only his second visit to Australia for his first World Youth Day, Eduardo spoke to The Record’s Anthony Barich after watching his close friend Christopher West address over 3000 youth from around the globe on Pope Benedict XVI and Theology of the Body.
Christopher spoke about the lies that society bombards young people with, lies about what they’re worth and what they need to do to attain true happiness.
Eduardo knows better than most how deep these lies can cut.
Hear his conversion story. Be moved.
I was like any typical Catholic, baptised early, thinking that I was doing enough by just being a good person. I don’t kill anybody, I don’t steal. I’m doing my best.
My father wanted me to go be a lawyer so I went to law school for two years but wasn’t passionate about it, so I pursued my dreams by joining a Mexican boy band – Kairos – and went on soap operas.
If you want to be an actor in Mexico you don’t have so many options, you only do soap operas or soap operas, so after two years of that I moved to Miami, the ‘capital of Latin America’ – and released by first album in Spanish aged 27.
I soon moved to Los Angeles and met the vice president of 20th Century Fox on a plane who wanted me to do an audition, but I didn’t know English beyond words like ‘chicken’…
But it’s what Christopher West was talking about – the lies. I was chasing lies that society teaches, that if you’re not successful and make money you’re a failure. You’re compromising your values as you want to be successful. I was like the greyhound that chases a rabbit – once it catches it, the dog bleeds, it hurts and it suffers, and realises he was chasing a lie, so he doesn’t chase the rabbit anymore.
After years of chasing lies I realised I was empty and unhappy; I realised that the reasons why I wanted to be an actor and singer were superficial – everything was success, fame, money, women, pleasure – all these lies.
My English teacher in Los Angeles, Jasmine, was a devout Catholic. She asked me ‘how are you using your talents? What kind of projects do you want to do; why do you want to be an actor? Who’s guiding your life? Do you realise your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?’
It was six months of teaching me English and questions; and one day she said ‘do you really love God? Why are you offending Him? If you believe in the 10 Commandments then you believe that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and you love Him and you believe in the Church and the Bible then why are you offending God?’
And that was it. She left, and I realised I was poisoning society with the projects I was doing as an actor. It hurt me that I was hurting other people, my family and myself. But what broke my heart was when I realised that I was offending God with the talent that He gave me.
So I started crying like a little baby. I went on my knees and asked God to forgive me. He not only forgave me but He changed my heart and made me a new man. I made a promise to Him that I would never work again in any project that would offend my faith, my family or my Latino culture.
I saw a priest, gave my confession, went to Mass every day and prayed the Rosary every day. At the time I was completely lost, I was using women as objects. I realised that I had three younger sisters and I have to be a role model to them, and somebody asked me if I ever wanted to be a father, and what kind of person would I like my daughter to marry?
I described a saint – a man that would sacrifice for her, give his life for her, treat her with respect, be faithful to her, and once I finished these descriptions of who I’d want to marry my daughter, I was asked, ‘are you that man?’
I said ‘no’, and it touched me because it’s following the golden rule – don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you. I made a promise to God that I would never touch a girl again until I marry her.
That’s why I started my own production company, and when I made that decision my agents called me and said ‘you’re never going to work again’. But I made a promise to God, and if that means it ends my career, so be it.
We’re not called to be successful, we’re called to be faithful to God. If, by the grace of God, success comes, praise be to God, but we can never compromise our faith to attain what the world considers success.
I realised then that I wasn’t born to be a movie star or a businessman, I was born to know, to love and to serve Jesus Christ. We are called to be saints, the rest doesn’t matter.
So I was free for the first time in my life. It was no longer about my career, not about what I want but what God wants me to do.
Sometimes our own personal dreams can be our own worst enemies.
So I opened the production company with my friends, called Metanoia (the Greek word for conversion) Films because as an actor I can’t control the message. This way I can make films not only for entertainment but elevating human dignity, to have the potential to convert hearts and heal and respect their dignity and elevate their intellect towards what is beautiful, good and true.
The first fruit of that commitment and my promise was Bella, which by the grace of God, won an award at the Toronto Film Festival. I’ve never worked with something so special, unique and beautiful that has changed the lives of many people.
I receive emails and letters from people that shared with me how it changed their lives, but decided to keep their babies after watching Bella when they’d previously considered having an abortion. More than 20 babies have been saved – and that’s the ones we know about. Only God knows how many more.
So it’s amazing, when you say ‘yes’ to God and trust Him, what He can do to you.
As for World Youth Day, we’re always on a journey, we’re called to know and love God, and every day is new wisdom that comes from God.
I’ve met Pope Benedict XVI a couple of times, and I’m a big fan. It’s been great so far and I’m looking forward to keep receiving the graces that we’re getting here in Sydney with this wonderful, historic event.
I was just thinking the other day, that only the Catholic Church can do this, to draw hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world to come and see the Vicar of Christ, the successor of Peter. I’m so over-whelmed, I don’t even have words to describe it.
Everybody has made a sacrifice to be here with the Holy Father.
What a journey.