Monday, January 30, 2017

On Maxine Medina

Miss Universe Philippines 2016 Maxine Medina at the pageant's red-carpet event.
Honestly, when Maxine Medina took home the Miss Universe Philippines crown last year, I was so disappointed. She wasn’t my first choice for the role—I was hoping Kylie Verzosa would be chosen to follow in Pia Wurtzbach’s footsteps instead. I thought Kylie had beauty, brains and that elusive it factor, and I was proven right when she was named Miss International 2016. But I digress.

I didn’t support Maxine at the time because I believed that she didn’t have what it takes to secure a back-to-back victory for the Philippines at Miss Universe. An interior designer and a working model who’s a member of the Professional Models Association of the Philippines, Maxine is a stunner. She has a great body and a smile that could launch a thousand toothpaste commercials. But as we’ve seen, if you want to be Miss Universe, you can’t rely on your beauty alone. You also have to be able to express yourself well.

Based on Maxine’s performance at the 2016 Binibining Pilipinas pageant, I did not think she was articulate or witty enough for the world stage. I cringed when she delivered a somewhat incoherent answer to a question from ABS-CBN Chief Operating Officer for Broadcast Cory Vidanes that night. I was very vocal about my disdain for Maxine—which I instantly regretted when I watched the Miss Universe preliminaries. I got a big kick out of seeing Maxine in her evening gown, national costume and swimsuit. I thought she looked sensational and I felt so proud of her that I cried.

I also cried because I realized I should have been more supportive of her in the days leading up to the competition. I realized that whatever failings she may or may not have, she’s still our girl. Our representative. Ergo, Maxine deserved better from me and anyone else who spoke badly of her. I decided to make up for every harsh thing I said about her. I tweeted #MissUniverse #Philippines as often as I could to help her get through to the next round. But as it turned out, Maxine made it into the Top 13 on her own merits, not because of her supporters' efforts. (Miss Universe Thailand 2016 Chalita Suansane, she of the 17 suitcases, turned out to be the beneficiary of the fan vote.) Love her or hate her, you have to admit that’s impressive.

Speaking of which, I want to remind every disappointed Filipino that a Top 6 finish in Miss Universe isn’t bad at all. Besides, only Venezuela has won two consecutive titles in the pageant’s sixty-five year history, when it fielded Dayana Mendoza in 2008 and Stefania Fernandez in 2009. Hindi madali masungkit ang back-to-back. Let’s not beat Maxine up for not being able to do it. She did well in the preliminaries, as well as in the evening gown and swimsuit rounds held during the main event. OK, so she didn’t do as well as we all hoped she would in the question round, but that’s alright. Maxine gave the competition her best, and at the end of the day, that’s all we can reasonably expect from our binibinis. 

I may have started out as one of her most vocal detractors, but because of her determination and resilience (she kept fighting despite the odds and overwhelming negativity), I was won over.

You did good, “Maria Mika Maxine Medina, Philippines.” Congratulations.

Photos courtesy of the official Miss Universe web site.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Learn to fly

Due to insistent public demand, Vivoree Esclito was invited to perform for One Music PH.
“If you’re told that you’re a talentless piece of shit for long enough, then that’s what you believe.” — Victoria Beckham

When I heard that Pinoy Big Brother Lucky 7 ex-teen housemate Vivoree Esclito would be doing a live stream for One Music PH, I was excited. As anyone who follows me on social media knows, I’ve been a huge fan of her voice since I first listened to “Kaya Pa” on Spotify Philippines. Since then I’ve been eager to hear more from the Go-getter Girl ng Bohol.

Something Vivoree said during #OneMusicExclusiveVivoree reminded me of my favorite quote from Victoria Beckham’s autobiography Learning to Fly. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Vivoree opened the show with her rendition of the James Arthur original “Say You Won’t Let Go.” It made sense for Vivoree to do so, because the first video she ever uploaded to her YouTube channel was a cover of this UK No. 1 from the winner of The X Factor UK series nine. When I watched it, I was impressed. So were a lot of other people, apparently, because her video has since been viewed almost 800,000 times.

Vivoree had dreamed of becoming a YouTuber for the longest time. She set up her own channel on February 24, 2015, but for some reason didn’t start creating content for it until about a month ago. As Vivoree tells it, she was pleasantly surprised by the response to her videos (which by now include a handful of dance covers).

“I’ve always loved singing. Noon ko pa talaga gusto gumawa ng covers at mag-upload sa YouTube, pero hindi ko in-expect na ganito karami yung positive comments and views ng mga tao,” she said during the show.

Vivoree’s second song was “Tala” by Sarah Geronimo, whom she named as someone she’d like to collaborate with. She sang it well enough, save for a few bum notes here and there. For example, I noticed that her voice cracked at certain points whenever she hit the chorus. She can prevent that in future performances by learning muscle control and proper breathing.

She also needs to loosen up more. Right now, something about Vivoree as a performer reminds me of Carrie Underwood on American Idol season four. At the time, Carrie had yet to come out of her shell. Carrie had a fantastic voice, but most of her performances were a tad short on personality. Vivoree is like that. Going back to her performance of “Tala,” I would’ve wanted her to show off her moves during the dance breaks. But she didn’t. Maybe she was too nervous or shy to do so? If so, sayang.

I think the problem with Vivoree’s performance and vocal skills is a lack of experience and proper training. I love her tone, but she’s still so raw. That said, she has serious potential. It’s unfortunate that it seems like she doesn’t know how good she is, much less how much better she can be if she would just let go.

I think that’s because Vivoree was heavily bullied as a kid. I can certainly relate to that. When I was a kid, people also told me that I was talentless and ugly. Eventually I came to believe that, so to this day I struggle with low self-confidence. The same thing may have happened to Vivoree. She doesn’t know she’s awesome because she grew up surrounded by people who told her otherwise.

When asked how where she got the idea to write “Kaya Pa,” (which was also her third and final song for this live stream) she opened up about that time in her life.

“Sinulat ko siya habang nasa loob pa ako ng bahay ni Kuya,” Vivoree says of the song. “Ang idea kasi nung song is nung bata ako, nabubully ako kasi sobrang balbon ko. But as I grew up, na-realize ko na I don’t have to think of what people will say about me. Oo, they will judge. But hindi ko na sila iniisip. I have my own life, they have theirs. Bahala na sila. Ginagawa ko na lang silang motivation para mag-strive hard.”

Vivoree needs to strive even harder to tune out the hurtful words she grew up hearing. She needs to stop believing that she's “a talentless piece of shit,” as Victoria Beckham put it in her book. Once Vivoree masters that, only then will she learn to fly.

Relive #OneMusicExclusiveVivoree by clicking here.
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Maira Gall