9 Muses: Kakki Teodoro, Diwata of Business
9 MUSES // Created in collaboration with Jodinand Aguillon as part of his arts residency at Pineapple Lab and shot on location in Manila, PH. Inspired by the "Siyam na Diwata ng Sining/Nine Muses of the Arts" sculpture by Napoleon Abueva at UP Diliman and goddess/oracle cards, this series re-envisions modern Pilipina muses as "Diwata Cards" which can be pulled for words of advice for those seeking inspiration.
"Sometimes honestly, I don't know how to rest anymore," laughs Kakki Teodoro as she shimmies in her makeup chair. "Like what am I gonna do, just stay at home?" On a rare "rest day" she came in to participate in the 9 Muses shoot because she swears it's still fun and relaxing for her, which tells you so much about Kakki's drive and work ethic. Theatre actor, TV and event host, and CEO and founder of Diet Diva, one of the top meal delivery services in Metro Manila, Kakki is the true embodiment of a Diwata of Business, like a patron saint of hustle. The inspiration for her card was kind of Jessica Rabbit x the Empress of the Tarot, bountiful and ripe with overflowing baskets of fruit, all fertile feminine power archetype. Even without the finger waves, cat eye, and red lip, Kakki undeniably has a sexy, cartoon character-esque quality about her, as if her features were drawn with an animator's pen, and the red Martin Bautista dress she wore for the shoot fit her sign, Aries, to a T - super fiery and full of can-do entrepreneurial spirit.
Back in 2012, Kakki was balancing TV shows, teaching, photoshoots, and theatre performances, and was struggling to stay healthy and prepare her own meals instead of eating the fast food normally provided during long shoots. The idea for Diet Diva originally started on a 16-hour drive to Vigan for work, during which she didn't bring along any healthy food and dramatically declared to her mother over the phone "I can't! I can't live like this anymore!" Now celebrating it's five-year anniversary this month, Diet Diva serves an average of 200-300 clients a day in Metro Manila and has won numerous awards and recommendations as one of the best Diet Delivery services in the metro by publications such as Rappler.com, Preview Magazine, StyleBible.PH, and Chalk Magazine. Diet Diva and their high-protein meal plan Lean Machine count many celebrities and athletes among their clientele like Jiujitsu Champion Meggie Ochoa, plus-size model and advocate Katrina Gumabao, Saab Magalona-Bacarro of popular indie band Cheats, and actress/VJ Heart Evangelista. They're also committed to educating people about health and body positivity, and want to help change how Pilipinxs think and talk about body image.
Besides founding a super successful company, Kakki is an accomplished actor and host. She's known as Ate Maya in the new BATIBOT on TV5, the number one educational kids show in the Philippines, and also headlined ABS-CBN cable channel HERO TV's My Hero Nation. A musical theatre performer, she began her professional career with Repertory Philippines & essayed major roles in Trumpets, Stages, Peta, Tanghalang Pilipino, Atlantis Productions, Spotlight Artist Centre & Ateneo Blue Repertory, where she also served as President and Company Manager. She has been touted as one of Theater 2010s Fresh Faces and (Re)Discoveries and received an Honorable mention for Best Featured Actress in A Musical (Magsimula Ka!) from the Philippines Daily Inquirers BRAVO: Best of Theatre 2010. In 2008, she was handpicked as the Lead Female Singer for the High School Musical Live! (Opening Cast) and as the Female Lead for HK Disneyland’s Special Event for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She most recently starred as Natividad, the second wife of Katipunan playwright Aurelio Tolentino, in Tanghalang Pilipino's original Filipino musical Aurelio Sedisyoso, which just closed on September 17. You can also spot her in the Philippines' top intimate apparel brand, AVON Fashions', recent anti-body-shaming campaign "Confidence is the New Sexy" in which she starred along with Sarah Facuri, Caisa Borromeo, and our very first Muse, Marrone Cruz.
Read on to learn how, through positivity, gratitude, and a lot of hard work, Kakki founded her own company and works to empower people to love their bodies and to change the way Pilipinxs think and talk about weight.
Hella Pinay: What's your background and how did Diet Diva get started?
Kakki: I'm a theatre actor and a host for television, for more children-oriented shows. I hosted this show called BATIBOT which is the local version of Sesame Street, that was 2010 to 2012. Before that I spent two years in Hong Kong Disneyland doing High School Musical - so my real background is musical theater. When I went back to Manila they invited me to do [BATIBOT], and also to host a show for ABS-CBN called My Hero Nation, it's more about cartoons and anime cuz I was sooo into that when I was a kid! But I noticed that I was gaining weight and it was so hard to do my own meal prep when I don't even have time to sleep. I was like, I wish there was just something that could fix my meals and make it healthy, something I could bring around with me. My mom had just retired from her pharmaceutical company, she worked there for like four decades but she also cooks, and she kind of started a catering business but it didn't thrive. So I said [pleadingly] Mommm, can you just make my meeeeeals? But I want them to be like this, and then I was sharing them with my friends and they asked if they could join because they know my moms cooking and they love it, so I thought we could just do something with it. I told them these will be healthy meals, calorie counted, and they were like OK! Even better! because they were also trying to watch their weight gain. And I talked to my friend [Clark Dela Riva] who was a nutritionist and we were like, maybe we can do something with this, and then everything basically fell into place. On our first week we had twelve, and the next week we had 24 girls, and it just kept doubling up through word of mouth and virtual word of mouth, because at the time Facebook was huge and people were sharing what they were eating and it started from there. Now we serve an average of 200 clients a day. Just in Manila for now - there have been interests in franchising it, but since the food is made fresh, I just have to make sure that we have the right suppliers for everything. So Manila, still Manila for now.
How did you get into that since your background is theater?
Before I would do my own meals I was really into eating healthy, and it just so happened that the nutritionist I knew was also working with me on a show and he was also an acrobat and a dancer, so everything just fell into place. And I was like OK, this could be a business! The schedule was crazy but I was like, let's do this! I mean, there was an opportunity there - so I learned along the way about the food business. But I was also lucky that I partnered with my mom, who had a background with food as well. And then later we added the chef.
How big is your team now?
About 20. So when we started we would also do the food delivery ourselves in a car [laughs] and were like, we can't do this in rush hour Makati. Now we have three motorcycle riders. So we have a kitchen team, a food prep team, an office and the motorcycle riders - so a team of 20 to 23. Now is our peak season cuz it's summer. After New Year, everyone wants to like, "new body, new me."
How is it managing such a large team? Do you have people who take care of the more day-to-day operations?
Yes, I've been able to slowly, little-by-little, take steps back. I kind of have a tendency to micromanage, especially at the beginning. Because it's the clients' lives, we're taking care of their bodies. So it was very personal. So I really wanted to [laughs] micromanage as much as possible, but I know that's not good. So little-by-little, kind of letting go, trusting the team with the job as well. But also finding the right people, finding the right chef, for example, was really hard. Because I've also had the experience of one chef coming in and he quickly left after a month and started his own thing. And we didn't even have time to make an NDA for him, so basically that's what happened. So it's really having people that you can trust. As far as day-to-day operations, my mom takes care of them. I've made her GM, so yeah. [laughs]
Were there growing pains? Like did it suddenly take off and you were like....shit?
Yes, of course. We had to put a limit, for example. We had to put a cap at 30 maximum for maybe a month. We had to deal with that a lot, but it was just like OK, find a solution, find a solution. I honestly didn't consider that I would not be sleeping [laughs] because my mom could rest, but after we prepared the food and everything I have to take care of the clients, and then now there's the marketing aspect of it, so it was like OK, it's time to look for the ingredients, OK how are we even going to deliver the food when we should be resting and we're driving - it was so weird. Honestly instead of sitting down and planning it out, I was just adjusting to the demand and registering the name and all that in between - it was like, this is good, we can do this, if we have many people wanting to sign up then this is great! And the thing is, I didn't expect it to fly off that fast. So September  I still had shoots, so I really wasn't sleeping, I had a show - I remember I would go onstage and then backstage instead of prepping, I would be dealing with Diet Diva customers - and that did affect my performance for that show because of my voice. I was doing this musical called Pamana, it's about the 25th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, and after that in November I had to fly off to KL and Singapore cuz I was already booked as of June to do a show there, to host for Barbie. And didn't wanna leave that gig, so I had to do the work while I was away, coordinating back home, email, Skype, making sure everything was still running smoothly.
How do you keep on top of trends? You mentioned that there's a lot of different services now?
It's so personal, dieting and food is really a food service, and that's why we have to know all of our clients and what they want and how they live their lives. Because the thing is, we have one menu for the week, but then we can customize that according to their needs. I think that's basically it; we really have to build a relationship with the clients, that's how we keep them and keep them committed as well, to the food and the lifestyle. And also continuous research and bringing in new food and making sure it's simple. Clients really just want good food, convenient and they can see results. Cuz honestly, if it's not yummy, they're gonna give up.
Do people tell you a lot of their success stories?
Yes! I even got a text from a client today and she was like (I'm gonna read it to you): I lost some inches a week! How amazing your food is. What happens if I have achieved my desired weight, I don't wanna be really thin. What happens next? How do I do this? So it's like, congratulations, and then we give her advice on what to do after. We tell her if she continues her body will plateau or that she can add in a workout regimen, or she can add in more calories say, if she would like to have her own shakes, etc. But yeah, it's really nice when we get messages from clients who also not only lost weight but also gained weight - we also have something called Lean Machine for guys, athletes, or anyone who wants to bulk up, who go to the gym a lot and just want good food. But how do you feel? That's the first question that we ask. Don't focus on the scale, you can't look for results after one week. There are always people like that. You have to do it for a minimum of a month and see how you feel about yourself, and also see how you eat, how you choose your food.
Anything you weren't expecting?
It was quite wonderful to experience this along the way - that what we thought was just a food service, is really so much more. Because [our clients]want to be better people in every aspect: in their health, in how they think, in how they live their lives. We actually have a responsibility being in this industry to also educate people on loving their bodies and appreciating that there's many forms. Like educating everyone not to go for just weight loss you know? Because of course people will go for it for weight loss. But we also have to educate them that that's not the end goal, weight loss is not everything. The Diva Body campaign is something that we also launched just this year, that's basically about loving your body in whatever shape it is and also taking care of it. Not just going for weight loss and thinking you're taking care of your body, but also using food as a way to take care of it, making you strong, not just making you thin. We want to stay away from that notion, that's very you know, that's how Filipinos think. It's all about being thin. But no, it should be more than that. Also, there's different types of bodies. If you're a mom as well, your body changes. So that was something we did this year, we had a campaign with different types of women. We had #Divambassadors as well, it was very important to us that people know that. Because it's not just about food.
What's the general attitude towards health and fitness out here?
When I started the business, people have been getting more and more aware of health and fitness. The timing was perfect because now people are more aware than before. We have more marathons now, let's say, or Zumbathons even at the mall, compared to before. The concept of losing weight before would be either starving or "I won't eat rice!" or "I won't eat after 6!" Always like that. And the thing is now, we have women like Anastaczia and Danah Gutierrez [founders of Plump PH, the first plus-size magazine in the Philippines] - they're so amazing because they empower women to love their bodies. We also have Katrina Gumabao who's with Diet Diva, she's one of the top plus sized models now and she's also into empowering women to love their bodies and love their own shape. And also Cristina Decena. We really want to show people that it's not just being payat[thin]. Because here in the Philippines, it's like, it's payat. You see it with all the celebrities as well. Most of them would be thin. Very little body fat. The "sexy" stars would have boobs, but the rest would be thin. At least we're educating people now - don't go for thin, just go for health and fitness rather than "thin." Also so many gyms have opened with different types of workouts, from pole dancing to cycling to circuit workouts like Plana Forma.
Do you see women here starting to move towards body acceptance as opposed to just being thin?
Yes, and I'm so glad that there are already people who are active with that, because I think they're also taking advantage of the fact that Filipinos are so invested in social media also, right? [laughs] So it's nice that women are using social media for that purpose. And my god, I mean, we had Katrina Gumabao for example, she had to speak about this recently because her photos were used in a Filipino Instagram page where she was bashed because she was a "big girl" - so she had to speak against that one and she used that as an example like, This is why we're doing this, because this is something we need to change about how Filipinos think. And wanting their women to just have a certain body type - whether you're payat, or have big boobs, I don't know! It's ingrained in our culture that you can't be pretty AND bigger, like whyyyy??? And it's always something that comes out of every Filipino's mouths for example, even when they first meet you. They're like, Oh, um did you gain weight? and it's always like guysssss, that's really.....problematic. Why are we doing this? We do we interact this way? To be like, Oh you're so pretty, but you're so fat, you know what I mean?? And you would hear it, You know you gained weight. For example, some people would tell me that like Oh you know you gained weight vs when you were doing BATIBOT or something like that and it's like Yeah, but I also wasn't sleeping then, and I wasn't really happy tho [laughs] you know what I mean?? It's so weird! And it's just part of a whole thing and I'm positive that because we have these role models now and they're so active on social media, this could be something that could change the perception really quickly, hopefully in the next few years. Still it's such a big thing to deal with, but I think we're taking the right steps.
Totally. why do you think that is? Like why culturally are we like that?
I have no idea! I also think about this all the time.
And it's already something you expect at a reunion or Christmas, ONE of your titas is bound to say something. That's the first thing, why is that the first thing that comes out of people's mouths? Ohhh you lost weight! and with that kind of, oh congratulations! Like, who are you tho?? It's so unreal.
Is Diet Diva your full time job now or are you still doing everything else?
I'm still acting [laughs]. BATIBOT was over already, it closed 2013, but other projects like commercials and TV shows, especially teleseryes or other stuff. And events, now primarily it would be events. Like I would do events for Belo now, a cosmetics company, not just to talk about the product but also to talk to the women about beauty, finding an inspiration in their own lives, stuff like that...because a lot of the Boardwalk [a direct-selling company similar to AVON] women are moms so they all do it because they wanna earn extra cash for their families. So it's getting to know them and remind them and also inspire them on why they do what they do. They're really awesome, the women of Boardwalk are awesome. They usually take care of their families in the morning and they go in the afternoons to sell, so it's been nice to know that side of a lot of Filipina women and the C-market - where there's not enough income coming in from the husband so they would have to do that so they can contribute to sending their children to school stuff like that. It's nice because it's also these types of women who don't have access or don't even have time for themselves, so that brought me into the project, to really talk to them and just like get to hear their stories and also how to empower them in what they do.
How are you celebrating Diet Diva's five-year anniversary this month?
We are celebrating Diet Diva's 5th Anniversary by giving P500 off to all bookings for September and October.
This is a big discount for those who will book for 1 month - not only will they guarantee results, we can improve their eating habits and portion-control, and save more moolah! More savings since it's BER season! Haha!
Looking back on the past five years, what achievements are you most proud of?
I am proud of Diet Diva for creating this healthy food delivery service for the new generation of busy, working Filipinos. With our help they can use the budget wisely and take care of their bodies better, as we all adjust to the growing demands of working and living in Metro Manila. More than the awards and recognition we receive yearly, I am most proud of all our clients and ambassadors who have lost weight and live healthier and happier lives through Diet Diva.
Knowing what you know now, is there any advice you would give your younger self when you were first starting out with this business?
Sleep more! And Yoga!
As a "muse," what advice do you have for other creatives looking for inspiration?
There is so much opportunity now to start your own business, so if you have an idea, put things into action ASAP! Your inspiration can be so simple. It doesn't have to be a big magical lightbulb moment. It can seem so basic at first, and the magic can unravel once you take the first steps and put in the work. You will find that if this is your path, things will fall into place and people come into your life to help you grow further. Every chance encounter - and even mistakes - will help you in your journey.