She wanted to take another road, but destiny intervened. Eventually, she became so good at martial arts, she could give her dad a competition.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, goes the saying. Most children are deeply influenced by their parents, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Sometimes, relationships between parents and children can be fraught with challenges because of the circumstances but even then, the lessons taught by parents would remain with children. Sometimes, as an unloved daughter caught between our father's complicated life, we forget to be children and instead become a friend to them. Sometimes, we also become caretakers of grown adults when we should have been playing outside.
And even if you are a superstar's child, it doesn't necessarily protect you from a difficult life. For 29-year-old Bianca Van Damme, Jean-Claude Van Damme's only daughter, life wasn't easy just because she had the Muscles from Brussels actor as her dad. She saw her father go through one of the worst periods in his life, including divorcing her mother, Gladys Portugues.
Van Damme was a martial arts star and Portugues was a bodybuilder. He had been attracted by her beauty and their relationship blossomed in the late 1980s. They got married in 1987 but the Street Fighter actor had a roving eye, which led to their divorce in 1992 when Bianca was only two years old. After that, he had a short-lived marriage to model Darcy LaPier and they had a son together. However, relationship troubles weren't the biggest problems in his life.
He had a substance abuse habit and got into fights with paparazzi, had debt, and was arrested for a DUI. Eventually, he went through many rounds of rehab and became drug-free. In the meantime, it was also diagnosed that he was bipolar. Eventually, he remarried Bianca's mother in 1999, according to the Daily Mail. They have been together since but amid all these complications in his life, he may not have been the most attentive father.
Her relationship with him changed year to year. "It depends on what year. Yeah, it was tough. It’s never been like I’m my father’s little girl or princess. Our relationship definitely had its ups and downs, but now we’re cool. We talk and we hang out, but it’s not like I’m calling him being like, 'Hey Dad, let’s grab a bite and talk about life.' We’ll go to the gym and kick and stuff," she told NYPost.
When she was a kid, her parents weren't overly involved in her life either. "My parents let us do our own thing. When I was young, my mom pushed me into martial arts for self-discipline. I was 7 and like, 'I can’t stand it,'" Bianca recalled. "I stuck with ballet and [ice] skating."
Their family had moved to Canada eventually. "As a teenager," said she, "I was so focused on speed skating, I wanted to be in the Olympics." However, life had other plans. She had an injury and she got "stuck for a while." "My whole life was skating. Then all of a sudden, I needed to find something new," she added.
Eventually, she started working with her father and acted in movies with him. It prompted her to try martial arts too and when their 2008 film The Shepherd: Border Patrol released, she didn't like what she saw on-screen as she had not taken martial arts seriously. It's been several years since and she is as ripped as her father now. "I realized that if this was what I was going to do, I needed to do it right," she said.
Even with his blessing and working alongside him, their relationship is frayed. "It’s complicated," she said. "I always have people coming up and telling me how much they love my dad. It’s nice to hear, but it’s like…what does that have to do with me?"
And yet, after dismissing martial arts for years she has embraced it wholeheartedly and gives a mean competition to her father. Her flying kicks and spins are just as dangerous as his now. She described how her father likes to bond with her now.
"I’ll agree to meet up with him and then I’ll be like, 'Ugh, why am I here?' I’m a perfectionist, and so is he, so he’ll always give me little critiques on my form," she said. "He’ll be all like, 'Look how high my kick is!' And I’m like, 'Dad, you can’t be serious — I’m obviously better than you!'"