Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Julia Clarete

TODAY is the birthday of Julia Clarete. Back in 2005, I did a feature on the talented actress, singer and TV host for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. At the time she just won the top plum of the reality talent show, Hollywood Dream and was just signed as an image endorser for Bon Jour De Corp.

I'm not sure what exactly happened to her Hollywood Dream and I really haven't heard much from Bon Jour De Corp since then. But I do know that Julia is still very much around and since I wrote that story, she has released her own album and did a few more teleseryes and movies including Bakekang and the critically-acclaimed Nasaan Si Francis?

And yes, four years after replacing the still very popular Toni Gonzaga, Julia Clarete is still with Eat Bulaga. She is very much an integral part of the show's formidable barkada. Like The Beatles tune that inspired her stage name, she remains the free-spirited ocean child that continues to grow right before our very eyes.

Here's a slightly revised version of what I wrote about Julia back then:


JULIA Clarete is going to Hollywood. How about that?

Considering that her main motivation for joining the competitive reality show, Hollywood Dream, was to merely do a monologue and just have enough TV exposure to keep herself out of work, Julia got more than what she bargained for when she actually won it all.

And to think that the ruggedly beautiful actress was a dark horse in a pretty tough playing field that included promising newcomers like Rafael Rosell, comebacking young stars Baron Geisler and Roxanne Barcelo and even seasoned veterans like John Arcilla, Pinky Amador and award-winning actor Raymond Bagatsing, whom she edged by just a single vote in the cliff-hanging finale, it makes her victory all the more sweeter.

“I just want to keep working, that’s all,” Julia told this writer at the Eat Bulaga dressing room during a break from the show. “There was a time in my career when I wasn’t getting work and no one would talk to me. It was a terrible feeling that I wouldn’t want to go through again that’s why I’m constantly working very hard on my craft because there’s so many things to correct about me as an actress.”

Julia’s triumphant stint in Hollywood Dream is not the only Cinderella story worth writing a screenplay about. The life story of this spunky doe-eyed lady is in itself inspiring enough to be featured in Mel Tiangco’s drama anthology, Magpakailanman. A big fan of the late Beatle John Lennon, she said her name was actually inspired by “Julia,” a moving ballad from The Beatles’ White Album that Lennon wrote as a loving tribute to his late mother.

She started her career in the hit kiddie gag show, Ang TV, the launching pad for the careers of Claudine Barretto, Jolina Magdangal and Rica Peralejo, among many others. Small roles in movies and the legitimate stage followed while her love for music also eventually found her singing in lounge bars. It was a lead role in an Extelcom commercial that led to her big break. “I became a part of ABS-CBN’s Star Circle Batch 4,” she recalls. “But it wasn’t until I got the kontrabida role in the soap opera Sa Puso Ko’y Iingatan Ka that I really got noticed.”

Playing the scheming Sheila, Julia made life very difficult for Judy Ann Santos in the show and as a result got the thumbs up of the critics and the thumbs down from the fans that hated her character. “It didn’t bother me at all that I was playing the villain or the bad girl,” she says. “I was really happy to get that role and was really challenged with the character. As for the fans feeling that way towards me then, I didn’t mind. I actually found it reassuring in fact. The more people hated me, the more that I thought that what I was doing with my character is right.”

After her stint in that soap opera, meatier roles in more Star Cinema movies followed including the surprise youth-oriented box office hits, Trip and Jologs. “I miss doing films like Trip and Jologs, they’re so much fun to do. But I guess it’s like a cycle, there will always be times when those kinds of films are in demand and times when they’re not.”

Julia’s acting style is characterized by her dead-on interpretation of the characters that she plays. More often than not, it’s her eyes that says a lot more than the dialogue she’s supposed to memorize—something that a certain Nora Aunor got widely acclaimed for all throughout her career. In a horror acting segment of Hollywood Dream, Julia impressed judges Armida Siguion-Reyna and director Joel Lamangan with her largely silent interpretation of the sequence.

“Thank God, I got that right,” she says recalling the sigh of relief that she heaved when she was commended for her reading. “It’s a horror sequence so I thought I’d show how terrified I am not by screaming and saying a lot but by simply not saying anything at all and just rely on my facial expression to convey my fear.” In between her acting career, Julia still managed to find the time to take up studies in the field of business that would serve her well in case the whole showbiz well dries up, so to speak.

It almost did. After being with ABS-CBN for the longest time in her career, she was released from her contract and for a while became a freelancer. That’s when offers became few and far between and Julia found herself being an out-of-work celebrity. “Those times were really hard and depressing,” she remembers. “I was behind in my apartment’s rentals and was about to be evicted. I just wanted a second chance.”

That second chance came when a guest stint at top-rated noontime show Eat Bulaga eventually led to a regular hosting stint. Toni Gonzaga has just left the show and for a while, the show was trying out several guest hosts to fill her void including the likes of Iza Calzado and Tanya Garcia. “I was a guest contestant in their TKO portion and I was told backstage that if I do well, the show just might consider me as one of the hosts. I actually won that contest and now I’m here.”

Of course, Julia had to endure unfair comparisons with her predecessor as Toni Gonzaga was already enjoying quite a following herself when she left the show. But Julia proved she’s no spring chicken and her effervescent presence was exactly what the show needed. It also didn’t hurt that she’s a very competent host who is more than capable of making people laugh. In short, she was a perfect fit.

But you do know what happens when it rains, right? Yes, it pours and Julia’s blessings did not stop with her Eat Bulaga break. For the first time in her career, she is also an image endorser, for a new clothing brand, Bon Jour De Corp.

Favoring things that are a little out of the ordinary such as extreme sports like Ultimate Frisbee as well as art works by Francis Bacon and Gustav Klimt, Julia's ultimate dream, is believe it or not, is to own and tend to her own farm in New Zealand.

Her fondness for rock music is also something that she can now afford to indulge. Julia is both performing as a solo act and fronting a band called Circus that covers classics by the Rolling Stones, The Doors and The Clash.

Her victory in Hollywood Dream does not necessarily mean that she’ll be automatically cast for a major role in a big Hollywood production. But with a much-coveted Screen Actors Guild card as one of her prizes, there will certainly be numerous opportunities for this very talented artist to, uh, well, eventually pass the audition.

Here's Julia as one of Vic Sotto's Acoustic Chicks in Eat Bulaga:

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