Sophia Latjuba is adjusting to her new home near Los Angeles, but it’s too early to say if she is loving LA.
I can’t really tell whether I’m loving or hating it, but it’s definitely a positive feeling,” says the 38-year-old model and actress, who moved with her American husband Michael Villareal and two daughters on Dec. 22.
Sophia was born and raised in her Austrian-German mother’s German homeland then spent her youth in her father’s Indonesia.
Never a city girl, because they make her edgy and nervous, she says she long dreamed of moving to a rural area. Italy or Spain top her list.
“I just never had the opportunity. I was always working,” she wrote in an email interview.
“I have never been a static person and the ‘nomadic’ lifestyle was always my thing. I always had to be on the move when it comes to having a house. When it comes to having a ‘home’, I have my family and friends to fill that gap.”
She adds she was not someone to plan out her life and rigidly stick to it, operating instead on passion and intuition. But she knew she had to get out of Jakarta.
“The reason for the move was mainly the quality of life Jakarta was not giving us. It was impossible for me to live the Jakarta life and keep my sanity at the same time. The pressure was constantly increasing and I knew staying in Jakarta would probably ruin me as a person -- as a wife, a mother, and a daughter.”
The opportunity came by chance, when Villareal visited relatives in Florida last year and Sophia asked him to look into houses during a stopover in Los Angeles, “just for the sake of it”.
“He fell in love with the third house the agent showed him ... long story short, we ended up purchasing the house a month later and said to ourselves, wow, guess we have to move now.”
She describes her new home as “awesome”, a peaceful oasis only 30 kilometers from downtown LA. A typical morning respite is feeding the birds and planting lavender seeds in her yard.
“We have a big backyard, facing beautiful green hills, the neighborhood is quiet and the air is so much better than I’m used to back in Jakarta. I’ve been looking forward to moving back to such tranquility.”
She says she has moved, adding playfully, “or better, moved on”.
One of the most popular pinups of her generation of Indonesian entertainers, with a willowy beauty that left men weak at the knees, Sophia acted in movies and also sang. Most recently a celebrity icon for a mall in Jakarta, she says she thoroughly enjoyed that experience.
But she was dismayed by the changes in the entertainment industry, especially the cut-throat competition for TV ratings that she believes override quality.
“The competition for the newcomers is crazy, and I’m saying this in a not-so-positive way,” says Sophia. “It’s not about who is talented anymore but about who will accept a part for the lowest offer. The working hours in my opinion are slavish ... and, of course, no law is protecting these kids from the abusers.”
Her daughter Eva Celia (from her first marriage to musician Indra Lesmana) is a popular teen soap star and will pursue her entertainment ambitions in the United States. Sophia notes wryly that the youth-focus of show business means that older actresses are relegated to thankless supporting roles of “the mother, crazy aunt, killer neighbor or boring teacher”.
She has found other outlets for her interests, diving into education issues and studying holistic medicine, including acupuncture. More recently, after years as a self-described “Austrian meat eater” she has become a committed vegetarian and animal rights activist.
She has also assumed controversial stances at times, being someone who does her own thing and, by her own admission, does not suffer fools gladly. Her marriage to Villareal whipped up an infotainment frenzy after it was reported he left his pregnant first wife. Sophia stood by her man and withstood the sniping against her.
“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, and as you can see we are still alive. The process was of course extremely tiring, but I would do it all over again if I had to. The outcome of the big hoopla was more than worth it.”
She was quoted as saying she was leaving Indonesia because of rising intolerance. “Maybe it’s all these stupid rules Indonesia is coming up with on a daily basis.... I refuse to live a restricted life like that. I don’t like to be judged or live a hypocrite’s life, a life that others expect me to live.”
Her husband will continue to travel to Indonesia for business. Sophia is coy about whether her departure from the country is a permanent so-long or just a see-you-later.
“I think I’ll leave it to the universe to decide that one.”