Isabel Preysler reviews her life: “I have done what my heart told me and it has not gone badly”
What can I say about Isabel Preysler (Manila, 1950)? She has an extraordinarily furnished head. It is a singular conjunction of intelligence and wisdom guided by the heart. Coherence, education and a sense of humor govern her.
He has very fond memories of his childhood in the Philippines. “We were many cousins. We were always making plans together. It was a very joyful, very fun and happy childhood.” A maternal great-great-grandfather, originally from Allo (Navarra), arrived by boat to the archipelago. He married a rich native woman who owned land. But that’s another fascinating story… “The Preyslers only married Spaniards”.
“At home you could breathe a Spanish air. My parents forced us to speak with them in Spanish. But among my brothers we did it in English. It is my native language, since we studied in that language. I learned Tagalog at the nuns’ school in Manila.”
In the Philippines he has many friends and his sister lives. They have even inherited a farm from her mother that is for sale.
Question: You arrived in Spain for the first time in 1969. What impression did it make on you?
Answer: I felt at home. I had family, my uncles, my godfather and many of my parents’ friends. I did not arrive to an unknown country as a foreigner. They were the same customs as at home.
For me, having just arrived from the Philippines, Spain was a more modern country. In Madrid they gave me freedom. I could go out whatever I wanted. I didn’t have a schedule. In the Philippines they didn’t allow it. My parents were very strict.
In Spain he has known four different worlds: artistic, aristocratic, intellectual and that related to his profession.
I can’t say that I got to know the artistic world in depth during my marriage to Julio (singer Julio Iglesias), because he had his world. He didn’t usually hang out with other artists, although I did meet quite a few with him. The Spanish aristocratic world is made up of a very closed society that welcomed me only for having married Carlos (Falcó, Marquis of Griñón). Miguel was an intellectual, but with him I experienced the political world much more (Miguel Boyer was Minister of Finance during the first government of Felipe González).
What was the political world like?
Terrible because of Miguel’s political situation, which was very conflictive. It was what I got. I was glad when he left politics. Everyone believed that he would return because he was used to commanding. But I saw him delighted with his physics, he started studying biology… He was passionate about reading and studying.
At home there has been a lot of talk about politics. We dealt with interesting people related to that world. It was shortly after the Transition, which is perhaps the most interesting part of our recent history, and we were all very proud to have lived through that important stage.
Did you discuss politics with Miguel?
Yes, but I admit that I quite agreed on many things. With Mario (Vargas Llosa) I discuss more. No problem.
It is very difficult to stay in the limelight for so long. Any advice?
I have done nothing to “stay in the limelight.” It hasn’t even crossed my mind to try to do it. I have simply limited myself to living my life.
I can’t tell you why that interest has been sparked. It’s also for my family. It’s not me alone.
When did you become financially independent?
When I separated from Julio and Eduardo Sánchez Junco he offered me my first job. He paid me very well for the interviews he did with internationally known people.
I have always given great importance to financial independence and, of course, I have instilled it in my daughters. Then Porcelanosa arrived. I have been working with them for 30 years and I have had the same luck that I had with Hello!. I have also worked for Ferrero Rocher, Suarez, Chrysler, Rabat, Coty… I can’t complain, because they have been very professional, serious jobs and they have taken great care of me. Even now I still do advertising from time to time.
He has intelligently managed the times of the gossip press. Is she methodical at work? Perfectionist? Spontaneous? Intuitive?
I have never managed times in the heart press. What happens is that things have been happening in my life, some good and some bad, and the press has published them. I give a lot of importance to work. I am very methodical and perfectionist. Spontaneous with my friends, with people I trust. Intuitive yes, I think very intuitive.
The gossip press has changed a lot. What differences would you highlight?
I’m not very up to date. Before they were permanently at the door of my house. Look, one told me that thanks to the photos he had taken of me he had been able to buy the apartment and get married. Another bought all the appliances from him. I thought, at least it has served a purpose.
They were parked at my house all day. They formed a group and agreed. They chased me and then divided the profits. When Mario and I started, you don’t know what this was. They would stand on the street opposite and, since they were there so many hours, they would start playing soccer, bringing their meals… I felt sorry for my poor neighbors. It was worse with Miguel.
There are people who don’t believe me, but I haven’t given a single exclusive. What I have done is fulfill my contract with Porcelanosa and Rabat and to do so I had to give some interviews. As it coincided with Mario, they asked me about the relationship.
The street is quieter. There are not the paparazzi.
Now they are only there from time to time.
Are you driving a car with tinted windows?
Yes. I feel more comfortable. Since they know you, they start pointing at you…
It has aroused much admiration and also envy, a very Spanish trait.
Julián Cortés Cabanillas told me that when I arrived. He asked me if she was happy in Madrid. I was happy. Notice that I didn’t want to leave the Philippines and then I didn’t want to leave Spain. And he told me “you’ll get used to it. “The great defect that Spain has is that it is a very envious country.” He shocked me with that comment then.
“That phrase that they attributed to me ‘I will have more covers than you’, I have never said it nor would it have crossed my mind”
Have you suffered from envy?
I think we have all suffered from it at some point. But not only in Spain, also in Latin America. It is less common in Anglo-Saxon countries.
Julio told me that once he was driving his Maserati at a traffic light in the US. A black boy passed by, looked at the car, looked at him and gave a thumbs up: “You made it man” (you did it, man). And Julio told me, in Europe they would have scratched my car…
“I live half my life as if I were stepping on eggs. With terrible care.” Is this phrase yours?
You who have taken the world by storm…
Despite all that, I had to be very careful with anything I did. They distort and magnify everything. They exaggerate it. I have stopped doing many things. The whole family has suffered this.
Have you gotten used to it or is it still bothering you?
No. It’s over… I’ve said all my life that it’s over, but it’s not over (laughs).
How have you managed not to be puffed up by fame?
Julio, when we got married, was surprised that I had no interest in appearing in the press and he attributed it to my lack of vanity. I always assumed that the interest was in Julio and I agreed to pose with him whenever he asked me. I never thought things would develop this way. Already immersed in the maelstrom of the press, as a perfectionist and somewhat manic (not out of vanity), I like the photos to turn out well.
You have continued to be yourself.
And why wouldn’t I continue being me?
Generally, fame makes you lose your mind.
There are many people who lose their minds. What happens is that, when it is known, it is more noticeable.
For example, that phrase that they attributed to me “I will have more covers than you.” I have never said that stupid thing nor would it have crossed my mind. When I separated from Julio, I assumed that they would forget about me. And I thought I would lead a quiet life.
What do you regret having sacrificed for fame?
There have been times when I have deeply regretted being part of a famous family. I still remember with real pain that my three oldest children had to go live in the United States after their grandfather was kidnapped.
What do you think about this time of economic and social change and uncertainty?
It is a very worrying time economically and there is no easy solution. Furthermore, there is the war in Ukraine that we don’t know how it will end. All this produces anguish and hopelessness.
Could you tell me four virtues or qualities that you appreciate.
Intelligence, sense of humor, kindness and generosity.
Three flaws that I hate.
Pride, lies and stinginess.
What do you miss about your youth and what do you praise about maturity?
From my youth, the only thing I can miss is the physical part. The agility with which he won swimming and speed championships. Regarding maturity, outside of experience and wisdom, I don’t praise anything (laughs).
You who have invested so much in love, what do you think about love?
Extraordinarily intelligent people have written and said so much about love that I dare not add anything.
But you can tell me something else. His great decisions have been out of love.
Yes. I admit that I was very in love with Miguel, but I was not ready to go with him. She told me “I’m going to leave the Government and I need you to come with me.” What are you doing? In the end, I have always done what my heart told me and it has not gone wrong.
Other people make mistakes.
It’s true. Nor can I fall in love with a person who I consider not worth it. She has done well for me. I fell madly in love with Miguel. I spent 30 years with him. I suffered a lot when he got sick. Seeing such an intelligent man fall ill like that was very hard.
I have also been fortunate to have met men who were all “gentlemen.” With Julio we maintained cordiality for our three children. Carlos could have behaved terribly with me. It was still a macho time and he behaved like a gentleman, a gentleman from head to toe.
Would you recommend that your daughters marry for love?
We mothers think that they should marry whoever suits them, not whoever they want. But my daughters would tell me “you have done just the opposite.” The truth is that my children have married or have partners for love and I have always supported them.
“My five children love each other as if they were brothers, not stepbrothers”
In his house there is a large library. Her mother was very fond of literature. His partner is Mario Vargas Llosa. He likes to read? What are his favorite readings?
The library belonged to Miguel, part belongs to Mario. I like to read and have a good novel at all times. Mario’s favorites are several: Conversation in the cathedral, The city and the Dogs, The party of the goat, fish in water, Aunt Julia and the writer… I love Tolstoy, Dickens, Stendhal, Flaubert, Zweig, Hemingway… By young authors, I have just finished a magnificent novel, look back by the Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vázquez.
What hobbies do you have?
The most important and the best of all, my grandchildren. Then, cinema, reading, music…
What are your priorities in life?
The main one, my family. Then, my friends, the people I love and their happiness.
He has managed to keep the family together.
When children are from the same mother, they bond more easily. My five children love each other as if they were brothers, not stepbrothers.
Has your life surprised you?
Yes. I also tell you that, even if I had not been known, my life would have been more or less the same. I think.
Some friends appear. They have movie night. They talk about the movie they are going to see, about the divine and the human. The atmosphere is friendly and fun. Isabel says goodbye to me at the door and insists, like a generous hostess, that they accompany me to the street. I insist that it is not necessary, but she rules.
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