By Antoinette Bueno
Balita Media News Service
Often times in showbiz, it’s hard to get an accurate gauge of the person you’re interviewing. Midway though the conversation, you start to find yourself wondering if perhaps you’re even getting real answers to your questions. Chalk it up to the politics in entertainment, and of course, the entertainer’s desire to be politically correct at all times so as to appeal to as mass an audience as possible, but sometimes you come away with the feeling that you’re basically hearing from a pre-written script.
But this is not the case with model-actress Isabelle Abiera-Collins.
Perhaps due to her youth (she is 18-years-old) and her fiercely determined spirit that shines through from the moment she opens her mouth, the former “Wowowee” host and “Rosalka” actress is refreshingly open in her demeanor, and even shockingly honest. She is far from the shellacked, pr-trained celebs you often meet in this day and age, and not only does this make for a more interesting conversation, but it bodes well for the stunning actress who has recently moved to L.A. from the Philippines to pursue a career here in Hollywood.
But Abiera-Collins, who was born in San Francisco, is no stranger to the U.S – though her trajectory has been a constant one. She moved to the Philippines when she was 10-years-old, found success in the entertainment industry, moved back to the U.S for a short period of time, and then went back to the Philippines. She is now based in Rancho Cucamonga, where she plans to stay permanently as she goes on auditions for various entertainment projects. She is currently represented by talent agency Diverse Talent Group.
“My mom moved me to the Philippines when I was 10 because she wanted me to experience what it’s like growing up in the Philippines,” Abiera-Collins explains.
“It was total culture shock!,” she recalls.
“It took some time to get used to all of the tricycles and the traffic and things like that.”
Fate stepped in when she got discovered on accident during a Kim Chiu-Gerald Anderson film shooting. She was at the mall scoping out the set like any normal bystander, when workers on the film mistook her for one of the talents. When they realized she wasn’t, she was invited to audition for Star Magic with the permission of her mother. She was signed and began an intense three month training program which focused on acting, dancing, singing and even voice drama.
Shortly after the training, she auditioned for a host part on the now defunct show “Wowowee” and almost overnight, she had landed the gig of a lifetime on the massively popular show.
“It all happened so fast, but it was amazing,” Abiera-Collins says sincerely about her stint on “Wowowee.”
“I was so blessed to have that experience.
“It’s funny because I actually used to watch that showâ€¦so to actually be on it was surreal.”
And what does she have to say about the always outspoken, highly controversial host Willie Revillame?
“Well to me, he was supportive,” she recalls.
“I know a lot of people don’t see that side of him, and maybe it’s because I was new, but he really was encouraging.
I mean, he could be really OC [obsessive compulsive] at times though,” she admits.
Abiera-Collins did make a number of showbiz mentors and friends in the business, including Dominic Ochoa and Maricar de Mesa, who she also describes as “very supportive” and who she credits for teaching her a lot. And although she went back to the U.S. for a short period of time, she found herself moving back to the Philippines due to her homesickness for not only her family and friends, but for the very culture of the Philippines itself.
“Before, I always thought of myself as an American in the Philippines,” she explains.
“But after I moved back to the U.S. for a bit, it was then that I realized that no, I’m really Filipino-Filipino,” she stresses.
“It’s definitely two very different cultures.
Even the humor is different. In the Philippines, there’s a sarcasm that sounds really mean but actually it’s really funny. And you also have to know how to act cutesy, you know, lambing,” she laughs.
But although Abiera-Collins considers herself a “Filipino-Filipino”, she decided to come back to the U.S. to give the entertainment industry another shot due to her desire to not only challenge herself, but to also bring more awareness of Filipino causes to the U.S. mainstream.
And this is not just lip service. It is obvious just by the even, serious tone in her voice, that she is sincere in wanting to bring attention to the major problems in her homeland, and is in fact dismayed that a lot of Fil-Am actors and actresses like herself are not trying harder.
“I guess what makes me different from other Filipino actors here is that I actually grew up in the Philippines and not in the United States, so I know firsthand about the poverty, the sex trafficking, the corruption and all of the things like that,” she says.
“In fact, that’s really what I want to do, to bring awareness to these issues.
Because that’s when people pay attention – when it’s entertainment. Look at Miley Cyrus – people pay attention to everything she does. But if a journalist or politician says it, no offense, but people don’t really care.”
She cites Journey frontman Arnel Pineda as one of the Filipino celebrities she most admires, due to the fact that he was able to bring singer Katy Perry to the Philippines to help out when typhoon Ondoy struck, leaving millions of Filipinos both homeless and hungry.
“I though that was great, that someone as big as Katy Perry was there,” she says.
“But then I started thinking, why is it just Katy Perry?â€¦and not even the Fil-Am stars?”
She also humorously points out the massive scale of the problems in the Philippines as opposed to the U.S., which becomes blatantly obvious when discussing the issues that become media fodder here in the States.
“The other day I saw an actress talking about bullying, and I was like, are you freaking serious?,” Abiera-Collins says frankly.
“In the Philippines a lot of kids don’t have enough to eat, they can’t even go to schoolâ€¦bullying is nothing compared to that, no offense.”
But though her love for her country is obvious, she also laments the more homogenous culture of the Philippines, and counts it as one of the major reasons she decided to move back to the U.S.
“There’s no growth in the Philippines,” she puts bluntly.
“I felt so stagnant. Everyone is the same there. One thing that’s great about the U.S. is how much diversity there is here.”
And Abiera-Collins, who herself is half Caucasian, hopes to bring that diversity to the forefront here in the U.S. She has already gone on a number of auditions, most recently one for a Kelly Rowland (of Destiny’s Child fame) music video.
But she’s also no stranger to hard work, and doesn’t just plan to coast in L.A. in between auditions. She currently works with her aunt who is a general contractor in the construction business. She works in tenant improvement, and has worked on revamping the interiors of such big businesses as Haagen-Dazs and Carl’s Jr. to name a few.
“At first it could get confusing, but it’s rewarding and I like it,” she says of the demanding position.
“It’s especially nice at the end, to see something made out of nothing.”
And she is also content in her love life. Recently, she started officially dating a long time friend, an American marine who lives in Houston.
“Actually, we were friends for a long time and we always kept in contact through Skype and stuff like that, even when I was in the Philippines,” she smiles.
However, she remains remarkably focused on her career, and of course, bringing awareness to the culture she calls her own.
“I want to show people [through entertainment] that Filipinos are intelligent, artistic, family-oriented and very warm,” she says sincerely.
“I think we [Filipinos] should all work together to break through the stereotypes and let people know about our greatness as a people.
Because we are.”