Can I really become famous in the Philippines?
February 12, 2010 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Can I really become famous in the Philippines?

I'm half filipino and half white. Growing up the Filipino side of my family (and most Philippine-born older people I come into contact with, really) has always told me, "Ooooh mestiza. You're so pretty, you could be famous in the Philippines."
From what I understand, it's really kind of a joke amongst many half-Filipino Americans. If I bring it up to anyone who's any part Filipino they instantly laugh and know what I'm talking about. My boyfriend, who's also half Filipino and I joke around all the time, "Fuck school, let's just go be actors in the Philippines."
Is this really possible?
I've seen many Filipino soap operas on TFC (The Filipino Channel) and I think, "damn, I could do that." Most of the actors don't seem full-Filipino and sometimes you can tell their Tagalog is definitely not native.
How feasible is this really? I can understand Tagalog but I can't speak it, although I'm sure I could learn very quickly if I devoted some time to it. I've asked this question to several Filipino people and they all seem to think it's pretty doable.
It's not that I want to be famous, but I wouldn't mind hanging out in the Philippines for awhile to earn some money, acting or modeling or whatever. If it was possible, it would definitely be an adventure.
I'm interested in anyone's opinions, advice but mostly anecdotes. Un/Successful attempts, maybe?
posted by ad4pt to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a half filipino friend and she modeled a bit over there when she was really young, like 4. I dunno if she was famous, but it's something.
posted by tweedle at 11:34 AM on February 12, 2010

I'd reasearch those soaps and find out who the casting directors are, and then track them down (Facebook?). Send them some nice-quality shots of your face and body, and ask them if they'd be interested or had any leads for you. Can't hurt!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:45 AM on February 12, 2010

You forget that the Filipino culture is made up of a huge mix of different races - from Spanish to Chinese to Indonesia... so there is no "typical" Filipino look. My Filipino mother has Chinese blood in her so she has very pale skin, compared to my Filipino father, who has more of a Spanish bloodline. I inherited my father's darker looks. My twin sister inherited my mother's paler skin.

Although I didn't grow up in the Philippines (I was born there but raised in the USA), I pretty much heard all my life that Filipinas born with whiter skin were considered more beautiful than those with darker skin. It's a cultural thing.

I think people are just telling you what you want to hear. Anybody's auntie or uncle, Lola or Lolo, Tita or Tito is going to tell you that you're pretty (not that you're not), or that you'll be successful (not that you won't be). It's a cultural thing.

What talents or skills, exactly, other than your looks, do you have that could bring to the table that would help you earn money in the Philippines?
posted by HeyAllie at 11:48 AM on February 12, 2010

Do it! Sounds like there's no downside to trying and you've got a number of things in your favor already. My rule of thumb is to never turn down a good adventure!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:53 AM on February 12, 2010

This guy is the kid brother of a girl I was friends with back in high school. He and his twin both went to my high school here in Winnipeg, and now all of a sudden he's famous in the phillipines!

So I'd say that maybe yes, it's possible.
posted by utsutsu at 12:26 PM on February 12, 2010

Some figures:

There are roughly 92,000,000 people in the Phillipines.

The average was in the Philippines is substantially less than 10% of the average wage in America, just a couple of hundred dollars per month.

Economic forces are harsh enough to compel somewhere in the neighborhood of one in 25 women between the ages of 14 and 35 to become engaged in prostitution - roughly half a million women.

The "You could be famous in the Philippines" trope has corollaries in many countries. In much of Asia, this revolves around the idea of beauty = the lightness of one's skin. It doesn't mean a thing in terms of getting famous. (Even you acknowledge this is a common "joke" amongst your peers.)

You may be exceedingly good-looking, but you must acknowledge that there will be many hundreds of thousands or even millions of good-looking women in a country with nearly one-third as many people in America. Given the economic desperation that is a common factor of life in the Philippines for many people, can you really believe that these hundreds of thousands or millions of women wouldn't do anything they could to make some money . . . like act in a soap opera?

You don't mention any actual talents or skills, aside from imagining that you can do what actors on Filipino soaps can do (and bear in mind, most people believe they could be actors.) I reckon you're very naive in believing that good looks are in such demand anywhere that you could jet in and "become famous." If you're that attractive, it'd be just as easy in America, where there are (proportionately) many more opportunities for fame.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

I was born in the Philippines and raised there until I was 5. I have visited there often. I am mostly Chinese and look it.

Have you ever lived in the Philippines? Metro Manila is not really a pleasant place to live unless you live in a gated community and have servants and drivers.

It's not safe either. I remember I walked half a block from a tutor's apartment to my uncle's office on Jose Abbad Santos Blvd. when I was 19. Everyone was surprised that I did it. They never said why but I have read stories in the local paper about kidnappings and how common they are.

I strongly suggest you have a network of family already established there that can comfortably take care of you. I have no other input on how to get into the business there, but know that celebrity news is more pervasive there. I remember TMZ type stuff regularly getting on the front page of their newspaper. Just something to think about if you do become successful.
posted by spec80 at 12:40 PM on February 12, 2010

I don't know. This sounds more like a "Can I get famous overnight without really trying or doing any work to get there?" kind of question. Now, if you want to live in the Phillipines and try acting and modeling because you're really interested in it, and earn some money, do that: plan accordingly, learn Tagalog, make contacts, etc. Just don't go into it expecting fame. Even if you do end up famous, I don't think it's healthy to go in expecting it - it just sets you up for disappointments. Just work hard and whatever comes of it, comes of it, whether it be some good money, a lot of money, or full-blown stardom. I'd say try going into it and knowing your "market potential" - just because you're half doesn't necessarily mean you're going to earn a ton of money.
posted by foxjacket at 1:07 PM on February 12, 2010

I would say give it a shot if you want something to do for fun and aren't staking your life on becoming famous. There are quite a few actors and actresses who actually have been raised in the US then moved back to PI and are now employed in the industry. Hopefully your family has some contacts in Manila to both give you a place to stay and get you connected up with the studios. Just like you would do in Hollywood or Bollywood or any other industry hotspot, watch out for yourself, don't do anything you aren't comfortable doing, and don't get taken advantage of! If nothing else, maybe you can go there and get on the "Hep hep hooray" game on Wowowee.
p.s. I went to a nightclub in Manila and busted out some songs in Tagalog and got to sing with Ate Gay and Chocolate--they just came out of the back to see who the white girl was that was singing!
posted by MsKim at 6:53 PM on February 12, 2010

Without strong family connections within the Philippines your chances are probably fairly slim. Yes, I've seen actresses on TV who speak less Tagalog than I do, but they weren't regulars.

The Philippines works by a different set of rules than you're probably used to--and if you charge in blind you may end up with some very strong life lessons. That said... If you do have a family network in the country to rely upon then you should at least consider visiting and learn more about your cultural roots.

I'd suggest at least a year in-country full time before even considering such work... you will likely go through a few phases of 'understanding'.
posted by joelr at 9:00 AM on February 23, 2010

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