A successful model and recording artist in his native Mexico, Eduardo Verástegui had it all – the looks, the talent, the fame, the girls, the budding Hollywood film career after landing a lead role in 2003’s Chasing Papi.

And then he gave it all away.

Disenchanted by the trappings of fame and the stereotypical “Latin heartthrob/Don Juan” lifestyle he led, the hunky star made the extreme – and potentially career-threatening – call to get out of the game and reevaluate his life.

“At that time I thought it was the right thing to do – like a real man is a womanizer, a Casanova, a Don Juan,” Eduardo tells OK!. “When I look back at that lifestyle I was living, the interviews I was giving at the time, I can’t believe I was saying those things.”

Four years later, he came back stronger than ever. Determined to no longer perpetuate the womanizing Latino Hollywood character, Eduardo formed Metanoia Films with director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde and producer Leo Severino to create projects “with a message, with the potential to elevate the human condition.”

“We hope when people leave the theater, they’ll leave wanting to love more,” Eduardo says. “We wanted to make a film that would make you think about important things in life, especially now in our days. So many people are wounded in so many ways. What better than using the media to create art that can heal those wounds? We can’t give up hope because then you have nothing.”

The trio’s first effort, Bella, became a sleeper indie hit. Based on a true story, the film chronicles a down-and-out pregnant waitress (Tammy Blanchard) who rethinks an abortion when she meets an international soccer star (Eduardo).

The life-affirming film won the People’s Choice Awards at the Toronto International Film Festival and was the highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes by year’s end in 2007. Most recently, the DVD became the No. 1 pre-sale romantic movie on Amazon.com.

But most importantly – and exactly as Eduardo had hoped for – the movie, which shattered the record for total box office and box office average per screen for 2007 Latin-themed films, changed and saved lives. More than 10 women re-thought having an abortion after seeing Bella.

"I have never ever been involved in a film so meaningful,” he says. “This little film has changed the lives of so many people, including me. There’s nothing more beautiful than waking up everyday to fight for a mission that’s bigger than yourself, to contribute to the world in a positive way to make it a better place.

"Forget about large numbers of women deciding to not go through with their abortions," he continues. "Just think of one. One person would be enough for me to know we were involved in something bigger than ourselves."

The success of Bella has come full circle for Eduardo. But while he will continue marching forward with his new career and life intentions, the 34-year-old still hasn’t forgotten about his suave past.

"Well, I’m embarrassed!" he laughs. "I’ve learned, I’m repentant. I am just another human being trying to do the best he can. I am responsible for what I do and I want to do great things for my audience. If I’m going to use my fame, my talents for something other than to make a difference, then it’s a wasted life."

By Joyce Eng

 

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