It’s not hard to be mesmerized by rising star Rhys Eugenio. With his mestizo features, prominent jawline, and unassuming charm, the 18-year-old Pinoy Big Brother alum made the news when he entered Kuya’s house back in December, described as the “handsome new housemate” who made “jaws drop” upon his arrival. With a towering height and an all-American boy-next-door vibe, Rhys is the epitome of every girl’s teenage dream, so the reaction does not come as a surprise.
Born to a Filipino father and an American mother, Rhys was raised in Louisville, Kentucky and grew up the Southern way—farms, horses, big trucks, and all. His childhood was, he says,“super normal,” with fond memories of riding his bicycle to almost everywhere around town, frequenting an ice cream store down the street, hanging out after school in a rock-quarry-turned-swimming-pool, and spending summers with his grandfather who taught him how to play golf.
As a teenager, Rhys shares that he was one of the youngest in his circle. “My friends were just starting to drive, and I was just riding my bike, so they’d pick me up. There’s absolutely no traffic at all, and we would just literally lay down on the road, and no one would hit us,” he recalls. But despite living Stateside, Rhys wasn’t the type of kid who spent his Friday nights in high school parties. “I didn’t really like going to the parties. I liked to just be with my close friends at my house or someone else’s house and just chill out,” he says.
Yes, Rhys may have grown up with that distinctly laid-back character, but upon moving to the Philippines in 2017, he wasn’t one to hesitate in taking a step that would soon lead him to the showbiz spotlight. Even before his PBB stint, Rhys was already a Bench model. But, as we all know, it was only the beginning.
In March of 2018, ABS-CBN staged Star Hunt: The Kapamilya Grand Auditions, a general search for talents to be cast in Kapamilya shows such as PBB, The Voice of the Philippines, Tawag ng Tanghalan, and Pilipinas Got Talent among others. Here, Rhys tried his luck with a knowing nudge of his grandfather.
“My lolo wanted me to audition [in PBB,] but my lola didn’t want me to audition,” he tells. “We showed my lola how many people there were during the auditions, and she was like, ‘You should just go home, and study, and be a doctor.’ But I was like, ‘Why not try?’ My lolo said that if he was me, he’d do it instead of being a doctor.” And to keep the peace without letting his curiosity down, he heeded his grandfather’s advice and promised his grandmother that he wouldn’t quit school.
Come the audition process, Rhys admits that he never thought that he’d get in. “The first round was dancing, and I’m super awkward when I’m dancing. I find it fun when I do it, but when I look in the mirror or other people look at me, I do not look good,” he laughs. “When I was dancing [during the auditions,] I didn’t care what anyone thought of me, and I guess they liked that,” Rhys asserts, but is quick to clarify, “Not the dancing, but probably the [fact that] I wasn’t scared!”
The next rounds included an interview, a group acting challenge, and a singing showcase where he chose a Bruno Mars track, a country song, and Ogie Alcasid’s “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang” which he admits he might have butchered for mispronouncing the word “ngayon.” But that was just part of his charm, as it appears, because he was then up for the Housemate Selection during the Live Kick-Off of PBB.
Rhys says that at that point, he was already feeling confident despite the uncertainty, but things took a turn when he failed to make the cut. However, not all hope was lost as he was sent to Camp Star Hunt, the launching pad of “dreamers” who would battle it out to become an official PBB Housemate.
In the Camp, Rhys took on “Weekly Jobs” which he won twice in a row. But despite doing well, Rhys reveals that he felt too disheartened and homesick to the point that he wanted to give up. “I would have thoughts that I’d never get into PBB, that I didn’t know what I was doing there.” It wasn’t until a certain task came around when he finally felt his purpose. “We went to Bantay Bata and did a feeding program. That’s when I felt like, ‘I don’t want to leave, I’m going to stay here and do this,’” he reminisces. “All of the kids were smiling and playing games with us. That just made me feel so good, and I didn’t want to stop. It became one of the reasons why I wanted to continue because I never thought that I could have an effect on people like that.”
Soon, he was announced as an official Housemate, but the reality of getting into the country’s biggest talent search was different as compared to his pre-Camp hopefulness. According to Rhys, he struggled during the first few days as he felt like an “outcast” among the contestants who had already settled into the house earlier than him. “It was completely different for me. The people were more cautious. There were more rules. In Camp Star Hunt, people were less worried because we weren’t going to be ‘evicted.’ PBB felt more competitive even though it doesn’t look like it,” he reveals.
But it wasn’t too long before Rhys eased into the competition. His disposition changed when he took on his first challenge which was a lip syncing task. “I’ve never gone up on stage before and sang or danced before. I didn’t want to practice in front of the others. I was too nervous to be up on stage and do it,” he shares. “But I also didn’t want to lose that task. So I just went ahead and did it. And it became one of my most favorite parts because I got to step out of my comfort zone. I ended up actually enjoying it, and it was amazing for me.”
When it comes to making connections with his housemates, Rhys says that it’s hard not to be friends with all of them. “We all came from the exact same situation, and how many people can say that they’ve gone through the same thing? Sometimes, it’s hard to believe for all of us, like, ‘Yeah, we’re actually in PBB!’”
In Week 8, though, Rhys’ Big Brother experience was cut short after he was evicted from the house. But despite not making it to the Big Four, his following grew just as crazy, if not more. His tandem with housemate Kaori Oinuma is a huge hit among PBB fans which they dubbed as “KaoRhys.” After his exit, Rhys counts the fan reaction as one of the things that radically changed in his life. “I’ve never had anyone ask to take a picture with, let alone, ask for an autograph,” he says. “I haven’t done an autograph since my sixth grade handwriting class!”
Being loved by his fans is what makes Rhys grateful for what he’s accomplished thus far. “At first it was weird to me, but then I realized that if taking pictures or signing autographs is what makes them happy, then that makes me happy, too,” he claims.
Currently, Rhys is juggling his appearances with the PBB crew and his last few online classes before he graduates from his high school in Kentucky. After that, he’s still planning to pursue college and hopefully find a program that would allow him to balance school and work.
From here on out, Rhys is set to continue shooting for stardom. And with his promising potential and humble spirit, it’s unlikely that he’ll miss. When asked who he dreams of working with in the future, he names the industry’s most seasoned actors such as Sam Milby, Coco Martin, and Jericho Rosales and aims to do an action-filled project with them. And by the looks of it, Rhys might just be the next big leading man to join their ranks.
Photographed by Renzo Navarro
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Ryuji Shiomitsu
Grooming by Jason Delos Reyes
Shot on Location at Eastwood Richmonde Hotel
Video by Lui Jimenez and Emmerson Gallega
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