by: Anna Davies | New York Post
Don’t cross Bianca Van Damme.
With her wide-set eyes and pouty lips, she looks like pinup perfection…and then she leaps into a perfect roundhouse kick.
“I want to show little girls and little boys that you can be physical and feminine. That you can cross your legs at the dinner table and then kick ass in a nice, feminine way,” says the 25-year-old West Village resident. “Kind of like how my father brought martial arts to the mainstream for my generation — I want to continue that legacy.”
It’s a bold statement for the actress and film producer.
After all, she spent her childhood telling her dad, Jean-Claude Van Damme, a k a “the Muscles from Brussels,” and mom, bodybuilding champion Gladys Portugues, that she “hated” martial arts.
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
Jean-Claude burned his way into pop-culture consciousness in martial-arts action movies like “Bloodsport,” “Kickboxer” and “Street Fighter,” providing a comfortable life for Bianca and her brother Kristopher, now 28.
“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 recalls. “I stuck with ballet and [ice] skating.”
Eventually, the family moved from Los Angeles to Vancouver, British Columbia. “As a teenager,” says Bianca, “I was so focused on speed skating, I wanted to be in the Olympics.”
An injury forced her to reconsider her options. “I was stuck for a while,” she admits. “My whole life was skating. Then all of a sudden, I needed to find something new.”
Bianca started acting —and eventually, doing martial arts — alongside her dad, in 2008’s “The Shepherd: Border Patrol.” Though she enjoyed the experience, she didn’t take it too seriously. Admits Bianca: “I didn’t like what I saw on-screen when I watched my first film. I realized that if this was what I was going to do, I needed to do it right.”
So she buckled down, determined to work harder the next time Dad gave her a break. She’s since co-starred in six of Jean-Claude’s films and even co-produced a couple of them. At first, she was credited as Bianca Van Varenberg — her dad’s given surname — and then as Bianca Bree (a shortened version of her middle name, Brigitte). Even as she acted alongside Jean-Claude, she felt compelled to distance herself.
“It’s complicated,” she says. “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?”
Adding to the complications is the baggage that comes from growing up with her last name regularly making headlines — and not all of them good.
In the 1990s, Jean-Claude has admitted, the actor worked his way up to a drug habit of 10 grams of cocaine a day.
There were fights with paparazzi, reportedly deep debt and a DUI arrest. He went through several rounds of rehab and was diagnosed as bipolar before finally getting clean.
After divorcing Bianca’s mom in 1992 and a short-lived marriage to model Darcy LaPier (with whom he has son Nicholas, now 20), Jean-Claude remarried Portugues in 1999.
Asked about her relationship with her father back then, Bianca says, “It depends on what year. Yeah, it was tough. It’s never been like I’m my father’s little girl or princess.”
She adds, “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.”
Bianca’s certainly inherited his skills. Just like Jean Claude, she can do crazy flying kicks and spins and even a balancing split that mimics his infamous 2013 Volvo commercial.
One big sign that things are better between the two Van Dammes?
Bianca’s now using her dad’s stage name professionally, even as she’s signed on to make some films without him. And now that she’s finally embraced the family business of martial arts, daughter and father bond through competitiveness.
“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 says. “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!’ ”