BEAUTY AND THE FEAST

What can Ylona Gar­cia bring to the ta­ble? Youth, stag­ger­ing ta­lent, quirky imag­i­na­tion and lim­it­less en­ergy. She could very well re­de­fine star­dom and suc­cess for her gen­er­a­tion.

Preview (Philippines) - - Contents - PHO­TOGRAPHED BY PAOLO PINEDA STYLED BY DARYL CHANG WORDS BY LEAH PUYAT

Ylona Gar­cia is a feast for the eyes and in­spi­ra­tion for the hun­gry soul. Regine Velasquez-al­casid, Bianca Arane­taelizalde, Iza Calzado and Is­abelle Daza il­lus­trate why food is so in fash­ion.

In the midst of a set­ting that is some­where be­tween a deca­dent Car­avag­gio bac­cha­na­lia and a Game of Thrones wed­ding perches Ylona Gar­cia, per­fectly still in an in­tri­cate em­bel­lished gown. As I re­called it in my mind’s eye, the sight of it all re­minded me of the im­mor­tal lines from Shake­speare’s Twelfth Night: “She sat like pa­tience on a mon­u­ment/ Smil­ing at grief.” And then, without warn­ing, she sud­denly ex­claims, “I feel like a le­chon! Let’s just put the ap­ple in my mouth!” When one shot is done and it’s time to change, in­stead of merely walking back to the hair and makeup area, she grand jetés across the stu­dio, as ethereal as a wood­land sprite. And when ev­ery­one was tak­ing a break for din­ner and her friend and hair­styl­ist Ethan David was teas­ing that she could prob­a­bly sing all gen­res ex­cept hip-hop and coun­try, she breaks into Nicki Mi­naj’s “Su­per Bass,” nail­ing that light­ning stac­cato that has some pun­dits call­ing Nicki the best fe­male rap­per ever. Ethan joins in and it’s rau­cous laugh­ter all around. There’s an elec­tric en­ergy, a buzz in the air, a crackle of be­ing on the edge of magic.

One minute, an evoca­tive Re­nais­sance beauty, next a rapid-fire rap­per, and then just as sud­denly, some kind of oth­er­worldly fairy-like be­ing. She also knew the lyrics to pretty much ev­ery song that came on that day, whether it was a cur­rent Bill­board hit, an Oasis bal­lad, or an ’80s dance song. She has just won Most Promising Per­former at the 2017 Box Of­fice En­ter­tain­ment Awards, but wasn’t able to at­tend the awards night. The award it­self was brought to her on the night of the shoot, and when we tease her to make a speech, she cheer­fully (and rather cheek­ily) obliges. Con­tribut­ing Fash­ion Di­rec­tor Daryl Chang pipes in, “What’s the award for?” She quips back, without miss­ing a beat, “Don’t you know?” She’s sassy, but she’s also got enough sweet­ness that you don’t be­grudge her the spunky come­back. Or two.

FAME FORETOLD

When Ylona was on Pi­noy Big Brother: 737, she was chris­tened the “Dal­dal Dar­ling” from Aus­tralia, and even af­ter just a few hours in her pres­ence, it’s clear to see that she most cer­tainly lives up to the moniker. And though she wasn’t the big win­ner of the sea­son, she and her love-team part­ner, Bai­ley May, were im­me­di­ately cast as the ro­man­tic sub­plot in the mon­ster hit On the Wings of Love. She quickly got a slot on ASAP and a Star Records con­tract, and launched her al­bum My Name Is Ylona Gar­cia late last year. She was also cast in a thriller ten­ta­tively ti­tled Bloody Crayons that is set for re­lease next year. Though she sings songs suited to her age, she’s al­ready show­ing a depth and range that bodes well for her longevity in the busi­ness. On the day of the shoot, I had come from a stu­dio ses­sion with some mu­sic le­gends, and when I men­tioned that I was headed for this in­ter­view, Buddy Za­bala of Eraser­heads, Cam­bio and now Moon­star 88 nod­ded his head and just said, “She’s good.” Suc­cinct phrase from a mu­si­cal ge­nius does not come easy.

But a chat with Ylona’s dad, Peter Gar­cia, re­veals that all this re­cent ac­claim is not new; her star be­gan to shine from a very early age. While she was still an in­fant, an old lady walked up to her par­ents and said, “What a lovely child. She’s go­ing to be fa­mous one day.” An­other for­tune teller told them that though we are all cre­ated by God, there are some peo­ple who are cho­sen to carry that di­vine spark, to be the re­minders in this world of heav­enly in­spi­ra­tion. “Hindi nga namin naintindi­han ’yun,” Pete ad­mits, “but when she started to do shows at around age 9 and got so many of­fers, my wife and I re­mem­bered those two in­ci­dents.” Di­rec­tor Lau­ren Dyogi liked her first au­di­tion and in­sisted that she re­lo­cate from Aus­tralia and join the PBB House. “It wasn’t that easy a de­ci­sion to make, but we couldn’t pass it up, and since her mom has a job in Aus­tralia, I’m the one who stays with her here. Her mom misses her so much! Even at her age, she loves to sit on her mom’s lap. Nagugu­lat nga ang tao!” Daddy Pete is a pho­tog­ra­pher and I ask if he ever taught his daugh­ter to pose. “I didn’t have to! Some­times, when I would be tak­ing pho­tos of her sib­lings, she would last-minute run in front of them. She’s re­ally funny—makulit, but su­per lamb­ing!”

THIS IS THE VOICE

It was at the Christ­mas concert of Coca-cola when I first heard Ylona sing live. I thought she was lip-sync­ing be­cause she was re­ally power-belt­ing and hit­ting the high notes that I just couldn’t imag­ine were com­ing from the tiny and thin-limbed young girl on­stage. But some­one said, “No, lis­ten well, she’s singing live!” When I tell her this story, she breaks into a wide smile and says, “I hate to lip-sync! I al­ways think that I won’t be do­ing it at the right time, or that I’ll be catch­ing up with the mu­sic, so even if I haven’t re­hearsed that much or know the song so well, I would choose to still sing it live, even if it would be un­com­fort­able be­cause be­ing un­com­fort­able is ac­tu­ally good.”

Of what her whirl­wind show-biz ca­reer has taught her so far, she says, “It showed me, and this is some­thing that also sur­prised me when I learned it about my­self, was how strong I am! Be­cause it’s not easy, but I re­ally love per­form­ing. I love show­ing parts of my­self, whether it’s from pain or hap­pi­ness. In fact, I can’t even say that I have a dream project, I re­ally just want to be able to try it all and do it all.” No plan B? “All I can say for now is that I want to per­form as long as I can. It’s re­ally all I can see my­self do­ing.” I have to ask her, since she may be 15 and al­ready a sea­soned per­former since she had been do­ing front acts for Filipino per­form­ers who go down to Aus­tralia since age 9, but she is still so girl­ish: Who is your fa­vorite Disney princess? “Tiana! I find her the un­der­rated princess, but she’s strong and even says, ‘I don’t need a man!’ Though she still ends up with some­one in the end, which is nice.” And since we are on the topic of young love, I bring up her team-up with Bai­ley. In the last in­ter­view she gave, Ylona talked about the parental ad­vice that she and Bai­ley were both given: to take a break from see­ing each other. “Well, we’re young and we do have to lis­ten to our par­ents, and I’m sure we’ll find our way to each other.” So when Bai­ley’s name comes up, she turns quiet for a few sec­onds. In her eyes, I can see thoughts spin­ning. “The thing is, I re­ally trust my mom. She told me that I should wait till I’m 18 [to have a boyfriend], but I think I can push that back to when I’m 21. Eigh­teen is only three years away and that will be so fast. I don’t want to be dis­tracted! There’s still so much I want and have to do.” Since she’s game to dis­cuss her thoughts on love, I press on: Do you mean you won’t even date ca­su­ally ’til you’re 21? Is your definition of a boyfriend some­one to just hang out with or a po­ten­tial life­time part­ner? “Well, I don’t re­ally know, I guess, since I’ve never been in love or had a boyfriend be­fore!”

OF DAYDREAMS AND TIME TRAVEL

Ylona fell in love with the shoot back­drop. “Oh my! When I saw it, it just re­ally gave me so many feels. Like, I want to travel in time and find out, what was the Re­nais­sance? Or what was it like to re­ally live that way?” She also cred­its her steady stream of magazine shoots with push­ing her fash­ion dreams. “Do­ing them has re­ally made my style evolve. I do love see­ing ev­ery­thing.” Be­cause she has busy days and jam-packed sched­ules, I am cu­ri­ous about her daydreams. “I day­dream about food! Oh yes, espe­cially chicken. I love all kinds of chicken. Once, I re­ally wanted some chicken and for some rea­son that I can’t re­mem­ber, I couldn’t have some, and I lit­er­ally cried. When I was around 5 years old, we went to LA, and ev­ery­thing we ate was so good that I am ex­cited to go back.” She rat­tles off her cook­ing spe­cial­ties: “Yes, I can cook. I can make adobo, sini­gang— oh and in­stant noo­dles!” She is home­sick for Aus­tralian pies. “I miss pies! All kinds! Meat pies, shep­herd pies, and all the sweet and fruit pies. That’s some­thing I can’t find here.”

When her spe­cially or­dered din­ner ar­rives, I in­sist that she take a break and eat, and she grabs my fore­arms and says, “No, let’s go on, there’s a con­nec­tion here!” Though there are a dozen or so con­ver­sa­tions go­ing on at once when she does sit down to eat, she takes a sec­ond to be quiet, make the sign of the cross and say her prayers. It’s a rare moment of si­lence for the Dal­dal Dar­ling. “Even if she’s work­ing the whole day, even past mid­night, she is that hyper,” re­veals Ethan. He has been work­ing with Ylona since she left the PBB House and the easy ban­ter and con­stant laugh­ter be­tween them is in­fec­tious. “Our brand of krung-krung is the same and that’s why we get along.” Quick con­cur­rence. “I am crazy and weird,” Ylona says un­abashedly. “If there is some­thing that I would tell girls my age, I would tell them, ‘You don’t have to be per­fect be­cause no­body is per­fect.’” No­body may be per­fect, but some of us sparkle just a lit­tle bit more than the rest.

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