Jennylyn Mercado is the most successful graduate of StarStruck. When she became the first female winner of this reality search (2003-2004), she was armed with singing and acting skills. It is her acting talent, however, that made her what she is today.
Her television shows in GMA may not have all been top-raters, but she was able to successfully cross over to the movies and even won best actress twice in a row in recent Metro Manila Film Festivals.
When GMA launched StarStruck Season 7, it was a brilliant idea to make her co-host to Dingdong Dantes, who had been with the show since the beginning. Jennylyn for sure is the one person who would know how to empathize with the very young contestants – having been there herself.
Unlike in previous years, when the program was seen daily, StarStruck Season 7 now airs only Saturday and Sunday nights. The advantage to this is that the show had been streamlined. It is even easier to watch now and is more fluid.
I caught one episode recently and it was a crucial one because contestants were already being trimmed down on the way to the Final 14. It is here that I was introduced to some of the contestants and here is a sampling of what I saw.
The first to be presented that night was Maynard Fullido of Bohol. He is not handsome in movie star fashion, but is very personable. He definitely can sing, but has yet to develop his own style. As an actor, it is too early to judge because he is new at it. But for sure he has potentials waiting to be tapped.
But does he have a future as a leading man? Unfortunately, there is no fairness in this world. Some have it, while some don’t. As best friend to the leading man? Still not quite. Maybe as part of the leading man’s barkada.
But Maynard need not despair. He still has a bright future in showbiz. His best asset is his skin. He has no visible pores and looks very well-scrubbed. He definitely will excel in TV commercials – yes, even in the lead part. He should also be thankful that he is the type who can change his looks like a chameleon, which is perfect for commercials. Welcome to the showbiz world, Maynard.
The other male contestant introduced that evening was Jeremy Sabido of Laguna. Now that face is what we can call movie star handsome. He can be GMA’s answer to the Edward Barber and Jameson Blakes of ABS-CBN.
As a dancer, he has the grace and could dance up a storm. But he is still no match to Mark Herras when the latter was a contestant in the first edition of StarStruck.
In the field of acting, he is still wanting. But then, again, that can be developed. This early though, he has to learn to open his mouth while delivering his dialogues.
Among the girls, the first to be presented was Rere Madrid. She is the sister of Ruru Madrid, one of the reliable young leading men of GMA at the moment. It is quite admirable of her to choose this path to enter showbiz when in truth and in fact she could use her brother’s influence to get into entertainment.
Now, this is the big question? Is she as talented as the brother? Initially, she was made to sing and she was quite a disappointment. Watching her performance, I thought that the farthest she’d reach as a singer is accepting bookings at weddings. She can always be introduced as “the sister of Ruru Madrid.” With that kind of intro, she is already assured of steady employment.
Is she really that bad a singer? The answer is no. The fact that I am bringing up this option of her becoming a wedding singer means she sings well. Believe me, I have yet to hear a wedding singer who sings badly. In fact, they are some of the most talented, except that they don’t get the right breaks.
In the case of Rere, she only has to liven up her performance more and maybe choose better, livelier songs.
Luckily for her, she can forget singing and still be a success in showbiz. Rere Madrid has the potential to become an outstanding actress – based on her audition tape. She knows how to deliver her lines very well and hits the right mark.
After Rere, it was the turn of half-British Janelle Lewis to be introduced. It was to her advantage that she came after Rere because you root for her rather than the Madrid sibling who has better access to showbiz.
Unfortunately for her, at 17 she is very shy and extremely raw, which is a pity because she could be the next “crush ng bayan.” That night, she got booted out. But hope springs eternal and somehow I know she’ll find a way to resurrect and claim her rightful spot in showbiz.
The last girl to be presented that evening was 16-year old Lexi Gonzales. Her face is very, very pretty. She can sing, but seems to lack lung power, which is just okay for now because she can work on that later. The marvelous thing about her is that she has magnificent stage presence and can hold an audience around her tiny finger.
With regard to her acting, as judge Heart Evangelista always tells the contestants: “that can be learned.” Heart even went on one time to admit how awful she was when she was just starting. Of course, almost 20 years later, Heart has become a very competent performer.
Heart is actually a good choice as judge and part of the council because she can guide the young girls as they go through that ritual of passage on the way to stardom. Why, she can even take these girls aside, away from the cameras, and warn them against people they should avoid in the business – and there are many.
Heart’s biggest asset as judge is that despite looking like a frail, delicate and beautiful Japanese doll, there is a toughness in her that enables her to speak, no, not just from the heart, but from the gut.
As for the male contestants, Jose Manalo can take care of them. He can train, polish and turn these boys into proper young men. Yes, he has the capacity to do that. You may think that Jose is just your funny comedian in Eat Bulaga! but deep inside, he can be serious and knowledgeable about the intricacies of life, especially showbiz life.
Jose is actually the revelation among the judges. For sure many doubted his credibility. But as it turned out, he is the type who can spot potential and point out the weaknesses of each and every contestant.
It is Cherie Gil, however, who brings in the most contribution to the panel. She is the queen – no, the empress of that council. She is THE Authority.
Cherie also has the biggest responsibility among the three judges. Aside from pointing out whatever is wrong or lacking with each one of the contestants, she also has to tell them how to overcome these flaws. What she dishes out are very valuable pieces of advice.
StarStruck Season 7 is lucky to have a Cherie. Newly crowned as an Urian winner, she is the perfect judge for a competition like this one. She is analytic, articulate and has wisdom – culled from a wealth of experience being in showbiz for more than 40 years. (She started very young – her being an Eigenmann being her passport to the industry she had since loved and embraced.)
The StarStruck victors will not be known until the finals which will happen this coming September. To the winners, rejoice – but be prepared for bigger challenges ahead. For those who will not win, take comfort in the fact that a lot StarStruck contenders who were eliminated early in the game still ended up having lucrative careers in GMA – and ironically, even in rival ABS-CBN years later. The best of luck to all of you.
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