They make it sound all too easy. And beautiful.
Stardom is fantasy life come true.
Stardom is just a dream away. Stardom is within anybody's reach if you dream hard enough. If you work hard enough. If you are lucky enough. If you are young enough. And beautiful enough.
Stardom is the answer to all your problems.
As Johnny Nobody you are but a grain of sand on the sea of faces that populate the overcrowded streets of Recto --- waiting in line for your jeepney ride or chasing buses in Quiapo, clinging onto the estribo or pressed like an insignificant sardine inside the moving MRT.
You lead such an bland predictable life while you see glossy photographs of Kim! Marian! Anne! Gerald! Xian! Dingdong! on magazine covers. They possess blessed skins, clothed in designer brands and endorse products worth millions because they too are worth millions. They cross oceans like you cross streets.
They get mobbed each time they allow the mere mortals to catch sight of them either at work --- or simply spending the hard-earned money that they easily dispose.
And you watch them from the distance, separated not by velvet cords but by a sea of other useless mortals who were born, are living and will eventually die anonymous. And you do not want to be just one of those.
That is why you dream. You dream to be a star. Even your mother thinks you have it what it takes. Even your father agrees that you should be up there among the demigods and not down here with the nameless earth dwellers.
"Ginagawa ko po ito para sa ikakaganda ng aming kabuhayan."
You want to belong to that privileged stratum of human evolution. You look at the mirror and you know that with an ex-deal sponsorship with Doctora Vicky and a pinch of Adobe Photoshop here and there --- you can be more than passable.
Deep inside you know that it is written in the Secret Books of the Universe that you are meant to be Somebody.
"Mabigyan lang po ako ng chance, gagawin ko ang lahat ... para mapatunayan kong deserving ako na hangaan at subaybayan ng mga fans."
And with the aid of a fairy godmother --- who could literally be a fairy (but more likely a metaphorical one) --- your dreams come true. OK, throw in your mother's novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help or Saint Jude. Or the brazen determination of your manager who will do anything to peddle you to the powers-that-be and who would cajole you to smile at the right people and learn the art of beso-beso.
Suddenly, everyone in the industry becomes your Kuya, Ate, Tito, Tita or Ninong. There are a chosen few you will call Mother. And, if necessary, there may be someone you will be forced to call Babes.
Ah, but that is not all for naught.
Suddenly you are recognizable. Suddenly you have a name.
You are surprised.
People will now take a second --- make it a third look --- when they come across you walking the all too familiar paths that you have taken when you were still invisible to the stranger's eyes.
People smile at you, whisper your name as you catch phrases like, "Ay! Si ...!" then give you another glance with a flash of an embarrassed smile. And you suddenly feel that you finally matter in the order of things. Astig ka na ...finally.
You are no longer just this molecule floating aimlessly in the Universe.
People want to have their pictures taken with you. People give you really silly and stupid comments like, "Ang ganda-ganda/guwapo-guwapo mo pala in person." (Standard reply: Thank you.) Or "Huy, kayo na ba ni ----?" (Standard reply: Hindi, ah ... we're just friends.) Or let's add, "May boyfriend/girlfriend ka na ba?" (Standard reply: Naku, focus muna ako sa aking career.)
When you are within the vicinity of relatively civilized or urbanized people (defined as anyone with at least a tv set at home or within reach in the neighborhood, inclusive of communities in boondocks) cell phones suddenly pop up as they shyly ask for that all too precious photo opportunity.
Suddenly you know how it feels when your picture matters a lot to people: they snap your photo when you are walking, they take your image while you are talking ... or eating ... or sleeping. Or even at times when they shouldn't take your picture ... or your video, they still aim their frigging cameras at you.
(After a while, you start to get really "banas." You don't like people taking photographs of you while you are about to plunge a spoon into your awaiting mouth. You don't want somebody taking your video while you are doing your favorite dance moves under the influence of excessive alcohol to the tune of "Starship" by Nikki Minaj. And you actually resent all these overly eager and shamelessly abusive admirers who even take souvenir shots of you throwing up on a curb after a wild and celebrity-studded night out at Republiq.)
Ah. The price of fame. But admit it, you are really, really f--king enjoying every millisecond of it.
You google yourself and suddenly you have graduated into something much more than just a statistic.
There are actually three whole pages of entries about you ...or even mentioning you. And these are by people who you do not know ... and some your manager or studio did not pay. Well, not everything written about you is flattering. Or even good. Some are even downright bad. But that is all right. Sikat ka na, eh. Even if some entries actually misspell your name.
Your handler always reminds you that you only get negative reactions or feedback because you are on your way to the top and they are only inggit. At the start, it upsets you that some people hate you for no reason. But after a while, you have come to simply accept it.
Sticks and stones can break my bones --- but words will never hurt me. Well, not unless ... it is grabe. Or career-threatening. That is when your management employs a lawyer. Then you can finally wear that underdog expression you rehearsed for public consumption. Or whenever there are cameras.
As long as you are not tweeting back to all your haters who send you all those hateful one-liners, then you believe you still have everything under control.
As long as you do not give stupid interviews wherein you do not only put your foot --- but both feet in your mouth --- then you are fine. That is why there are handlers and road managers. You are trained to keep your mouth shut not unless you are about to say something cute or attempt at wit. But you do not create controversies. You do not make patol the enemy camp.
Worse than that, you do not try to prove to the world that you are intelligent...especially when management has decided that you are just two notches above average in the IQ department but six notches above everyone because of your soulful eyes and dimples.
You get your name in the papers so many times a week, your Twitter followers multiply a thousandfold ... and you are now a viable subject for blind items in all the showbiz talk shows and tabloid columns.
Because you are a star. And nowadays it comes all too easily. As a matter of fact, much too easily.
Indeed there are promises made and fulfilled.
You know you are on your way to the top of the heap if:
(a) You are a boy. They say you are the kept boy toy of a studio or tv executive, a director, a well-known designer or a businessman who has got nothing to do with showbiz except having a hobby of collecting specimens from the industry.
(b) You are a boy but rumors abound that you also like boys or that there was a time you were available to those who pounce on boys.
(c) You are a boy and you have an extra-vicious sperm count because you can impregnate women by just swimming on a public pool.
(d) You are a girl ... and you are a kabit. You are the trophy bitch of a studio executive, a director and every other dirty old man who still uses sticky pomade and has a such a shiny, eechy face that looked like he fell straight into a vat of corn oil.
(e) You are a girl who likes girls.
(f) You have a baby hidden somewhere ... ranging from the isolated hometown in your province ... or the Himalayas.
But you shouldn't be really bothered. Nobody would accuse you of any of these venomous issues --- if you were not worth it. And you think about it and come to a conclusion: Tamaaaa.
Who cares if some insignificant creep is being boinked by a bull mastiff or is into necrophilia, right?
You only get accused of permutations of perversion because you are sikat already.
And now ...
Who would have thought that somebody as ordinary as you can be plucked out of nowhere and turned into someone who can sell as well as well be sold? You always imagined that. It is made of the same fabric of fantasy as being ... a superhero or winning the Grand lotto ...or finding Yamashita's legendary lost treasure right in your own backyard.
But this time it is for real.
Your life has officially changed.
Gone are the days when you have to wait to be discovered. Gone are the days when you have to wait to be a star. Oh, nowadays --- in the era of digital technology --- fame and fortune comes instantly. It is like pressing the button of a remote control ...or stirring a heaping tablespoon of concentrated orange juice to a glass of cold water. Bongga! If you are called, then you are chosen. And when you answer that calling ... you can be the star you once thought only existed in your private universe of daydreams.
You are young and full of energy. And you will do anything to get to where you want to go --- in the quickest possible way. Even if you have never set foot onstage and your only experience with a camera is to have your ID picture taken, that is all right.
In the age of the Worldwide Web where YouTube can make stars out of bathroom divas or home movies shot by over-enthusiastic parents who think their kids can kill with cute, you do not need experience.
It is all about On-the-Job training.
Man, that's the beauty of Reality Television.
The playing field has been leveled to the point that there are no more borders, there are no more distinctions. The moments the gods in the heavens above (actually --- it is the demigods from the networks on earth) bless you with the chance to be captured by their cameras in the latest search for The Next Big Thing, then it's your ballgame all the way.
Remember that eyes will be glued not only on you but all the others who have the same hopes and dreams of landing on that coveted spot. Remember that it is not enough to be your naturally sincere self because pagpapakatotoo can be appreciated but not necessarily be all of your selling point. So instead of just being down-to-earth, chummy-to-everybody and oh-so-full-of-life ... you have to be noticed. Let me repeat that with greater emphasis: YOU HAVE TO BE NOTICED!
One thing beautiful about living in the age of voyeurism is that LIFE becomes one big audition.
Reality television has facilitated that --- or maybe legalized it. But then who needs privacy when publicity is the magic key that will open doors and opportunities to have your life and possessions featured in a six page spread on Yes Magazine? Who needs the walls of private space when you urgently want to be public property?
So you give it all. And by this, you literally give it all even if there is really nothing more to give. Or you can create the illusion that there is something to give because the audience lives for the moment inasmuch as you have to live for the moment as well.
Even if you cannot sing a tune to save your life or act your way out of a brown paper bag, that is all right. You can learn to act after you have been anointed as the Chosen One. Nowadays, stardom has got nothing to do with talent. It has everything to do with marketing, packaging and selling.
Who you really are is not that important. What people think you are and how you are sold is what it's all about. Nowadays, it is a matter of what people want rather than what they need. Fill those wants ... and you hit the jackpot. Provide them with the fantasies they require --- and even you will be convinced that you will live happily ever after.
Oh, God ... it feels so good to be so young, so famous ... and so rich.
You think this will last forever because the money keeps pouring in and the bosses actually rise from their chairs when you enter a room. "Anak ... how are you na?" Your sheer presence triggers such an outpouring of love and affection ... because you personify perfection. You are the embodiment of the moment. And you are not even twenty-one and you are wearing Jimmy Choos, carrying authentic Burberry Alexa bags in three distinct colors (oh, you can also distinguish a Birkin from a Kelly bag --- or can sport a Tom Ford or Prada suit with such natural aplomb)and has become happiness personified.
That sounds good: happiness personified.
And nobody ever told you --- that one day, you will wake up to find that you have become older --- and that there is someone newer. And younger. And cheaper. And fresher. And more exciting.
You do not know how to react when somebody starts calling you Ate or Kuya. Worse still is when your television shows stop registering in the ratings --- and your movies are received by a lukewarm audience. And that you realize that somehow, the bosses are not so eager to get in touch with you ... or you are not getting any calls at all.
Wait a minute: you have only been in this business for five years!
But then didn't anyone tell you? In a dog-eat-dog industry, each year is also counted as dog years: twelve months are equivalent to seven rotations around the sun by the Third Planet of Showbiz. That means you have been hanging around to an equivalent of thirty-five years. That is called your media age.
And that is why you are being called in for fewer and fewer projects.
Oh, you will notice the change. Just at the time when you are getting better --- just when you are getting the hang of it --- just when you finally realized what it is all about: that acting is not just being cute, or flashing a smile to create a community orgasm among hormone-crazed tweens --- or that it is all about throwing a series of cliches to feed the illusions of a love team --- just at that point when it all made sense --- you realize that you are now officially yesterday's sensation.
You now belong to the Legion of Has-Beens --- and they say you are still lucky because you were not categorized in the League of the Never-Was-Never-Beens. Still you ask yourself, "How did it go so fast?"
Even worst: can you still go back to the life you once led after you have tasted public adulation and adoration?
Worse than having not that much money ... for someone so young, can you really handle being ignored and actually called "La Ocean Deep" right to your face?
Do you ask yourself what went wrong ...what did you do that wasn't right and how could you have stuck it out longer?
Poor kiddo. Didn't you know that this is what it is all about?
Because, Young One --- that is all that stardom is today. Your fifteen minutes of fame.