Call it life imitating art. Andrea Brillantes, who rose to fame playing the long-suffering little girl Anna Liza, knew how it is to be bullied in real life. And like Anna Liza, she learned how to bounce back.
As a struggling actress back then, Andrea had her share of detractors.
“Na-bully ako sa school. Nung nursery ako, sabi nila sa akin ang tigas daw ng katawan ko. Nung naging first runner-up ako sa isang contest, five percent lang ang lamang ng nanalo sa akin. Sabi nila, hindi raw ako marunong mag-pose,” Andrea told Yahoo Philippines on the set of the teleserye “Hawak Kamay.”
That's not all. Andrea recalls being called “potato corn.”
“Ibig sabihin pangit,” she says.
In another instance, someone actually threw a dress at the girl and pointed out, “Ganyan pa rin ang sapatos mo!”
But like the iconic Anna Liza, Andrea didn’t let this bring her down. Yahoo Celebrity 2014’s Child Star of the Year continued to audition for parts until Star Magic head Johnny ‘Mr. M’ Manahan got her as part of ABS-CBN’s talent management arm.
Instagram, Twitter followers
Today, Mabel, Andrea’s mom proudly says her youngest child gets as much as 200 to 300 new followers a day on Instagram. She has more than 31,000 followers on Twitter.
ABS-CBN, Andrea’s mother network, is building her and Zaijan Jaramilla (of “Santino” fame) up as its next tween love team. It already has a follow-up teleserye for her after “Hawak Kamay.”
The former extra has her own airconditioned tent in the Hawak Kamay set, a Starex, and the means to pay for her eldest sister’s trip to Dubai, where Andrea’s 20-year-old Ate plans to take on-the-job training.
Fans interrupt this interview at Hospicio de San Jose now and then to ask for photos with their young idol and Andrea herself admits she longs for the time when she can just run in an open space as much as she wants without anyone stopping her now and then.
Joy in work
“Yung nanonood lang ako ng cartoons at kausap ang mga kapatid ko (two sisters and a brother), at pumupunta kahit saan sa mall,” she adds.
But Andrea – Blythe to family and friends -- is not complaining. Like most child stars who know they’re working for their family, she finds joy in her work.
Andrea’s mom, with her fascination for Hollywood stars, admits she wanted to make her youngest daughter a star. At three, Mabel was already guiding Andrea on how to pose like a model and smile for the camera.
“Nanonood ako ng America’s Next Top Model at pina-pose ko siya ng ganito at ganoon. Pumupunta kami sa mall at sinasabihan ko siya ng ‘One, two, three, smile!’ or “One, two, three, pose!” Ginagawa ko siyang parang manyika.”
But when the then four-year-old Andrea failed to get a part in the top-rating teleserye “Marimar,” Mabel changed her mind. Perhaps, she told her mom, the little girl is not cut out for a life before the klieg lights.
Andrea regained her confidence when she won the Little Miss Confetti contest . She told Mabel she was ready to audition again.
“Doon ko na-realize na hindi lang ako ang may gusto. Siya rin,” the young mom revealed.
She knows Andrea will one day reach the awkward stage where stars are neither children nor adults and roles are hard to come by. When that time comes, Mabel wants to make Andrea focus on school alone.
“May one-and-a-half years pa siya sa ABS contract niya. Balak ko, pagkatapos non, rest muna siya ng two years. Pagbalik niya, dalaga na siya.”
Wait and see
Andrea, for her part, has a wait-and-see attitude.
“Hayaan mo na lang kung anong mangyari.”
The acting bug has bit her hard. And it will be hard for the sixth grader to shake it off.
Good thing her mom – and Andrea – agree school is just as important.
Let's hope Andrea sticks to her books even if her showbiz pay is big and the temptation to stop schooling is too great to resist.