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It's about time we gave her a listen.
PHOTO: Jico Joson

We're introducing a new digital celebrity series, Spotlight. And first up to get featured is multi-hyphenate performer, Julie Anne San Jose.

You might be familiar with her name—the former child singer who we still see on TV from time to time—or not. And we don't blame you. The 23-year-old GMA Network talent has been making only a few headlines the past year, most of which had to do with her rumored romance with Kapuso heartthrob Benjamin Alves. But her love life isn't what we're discussing here.

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Julie, or Japs as she's fondly called, is not just a random filler who sings and dances on variety shows. Unknown to most, Julie is an artist and a very hard-working one at that. She not only sings (incredibly well, mind you), but she writes her own music, collaborates with co-artists for her passion projects, and plays several instruments—the piano, guitar, drums, violin, and ukulele (she's also looking into learning the saxophone soon)—all of which she humbly says she only knows how "to play by ear."

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After failing to win in the singing competition Popstar Kids in 2005, 11-year-old Julie went on to be part of a girl group which then led her to bag more singing and acting gigs on GMA-7. One of her biggest career highlights was being paired with her former love team partner Elmo Magalona in 2013. Even after their tandem was broken off a couple of years after, Julie continued making music.

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After a few albums, concerts, and a Communication Arts degree from Angelicum College under her belt, Julie's star power is still under the radar. She's made waves mostly on the internet scene where her covers of international pop songs (most recently with "Despacito") on her YouTube channel have gone mega-viral.

We sat down with Julie to talk about her start in music, what frustrates her as an artist, and why she is never, ever giving up on her dream.

What was your musical training like?

I started singing when I was two and a half years old, and then I took voice lessons when I was three. It has always been my lola's dream for me na maging celebrity, singer, or artista because she wanted me to be like Regine [Velasquez]. Sabi ko, let's just try. Sabi niya sumali daw ako ng Little Miss Philippines, so I did. I was young, so I barely knew anything. And then my mom enrolled me sa Center of Pop Music of the Philippines and it only lasted for like six months 'cause I had to start with school na. Hindi pa naman siya sa professional level.

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The first instrument I learned was the piano. My dad bought this piano 'nung kakauwi pa lang niya ng Taiwan because he worked there before. So 'yung gift niya sa akin is this keyboard na maliit—for beginners, ganoon. And then he also bought a guitar. The first piece na natutunan ko was "Beauty and Madness" (by Fra Lippo Lippi) and then si papa tumutugtog rin siya pero kapa-kapa lang din. I only play by ear also—I can read notes pero 'yung mga sobrang complicated na notes, 'di ko na sila mabasa.

I enrolled sa piano lessons kaso parang dinadaya ko na siya kasi nakakatugtog na ako ng mga piyesa, parang pang-beginners lang 'yung tinururo—"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." I wanted pang-intermediate level sana ituro. So nag-start kami sa ganoon when I was seven or eight.

I've always been passionate about music. Siguro nakitaan ng potential, parang nasa blood ko na rin 'yung pagkanta. I'm just really thankful that God gave me the skill and talent to sing.

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Do you wish people took you more seriously as an artist?

Yeah, because I believe there are a lot of talented people here in the industry and I just think they need to find this perfect avenue for them—they have to find this platform that would fit them. Kasi sayang.

People should be more open-minded about the artistry ng isang tao or 'yung capability nila sa craft nila 'cause, like I said kanina, sobrang daming talented na tao dito sa showbiz na 'di nabibigyan ng recognition.

Well, ako naman, personally, I'm not after the recognition and stuff—I just want to sing, parang bonus na makilala ako for that. Since I'm here in showbiz, I want to make the most out of it. I'm really thankful for the support na binibigay sa akin since day one. Mas lalo akong ginaganahan to do my craft, to do what I love the most.

What's your biggest frustration about the industry?

Haters and bashers. 'Nung nag-start pa lang ako, nakabasa ako ng mga negative comments especially sa YouTube—mas marami sa YouTube—naiiyak ako. Hindi ako sanay makabasa ng ganoon. Why would they do that? Why would they say such things? Alam ko naman na hindi totoo. [Pero] nakaka-degrade ng self-esteem.

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How do you deal with them?

I just ignore them. Now, I have a team who handles my social media accounts—Twitter, Instagram, Facebookmay mga admins ako 'dun. Ayoko kasi masira 'yung araw ko din kapag nakakabasa ako ng [negative comments].

Every time I browse Instagram or Twitter, I don't read comments.

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Kapag celebrity ka, people expect a lot from you. People think that everything is served to you on a silver platter. Parang madali lang for us [to have] a public image. [But] there's a thin line between being a private person and having a public image. You have a public image but people want to know more about your private life.

What's the meanest thing that was said or done to you by your haters?

The meanest thing? Madami. I used to receive death threats. And there was one time when I had this mall show and it was pretty scary kasi someone pulled my hair—like [a] random [person]. Kasi kapag nagma-mall shows ako, bumababa ako ng stage to reach out to my fans. And I like doing that kasi para ma-feel nila 'Oh, welcome kami kay Julie!' 'Yung fans ko rin kasi, they have a special place in my heart. Pero hindi ko 'yun ine-expect na magkakaroon ng ganoong klaseng incident. Anyway, masakit siya 'cause I was wearing hair extensions then.

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Another one was when I had this show at a public event and someone vandalized my car. [They spelled out] a harsh word. Mura. Someone cursed me. I felt bad talaga. Natakot din ako kasi 'di ko alam anong pwedeng gawin nila, 'yung next move nila. Wala namang safe place here on earth. So ako, pinagdarasal ko na lang sila. Sabi ko, 'Lord, kayo na ang bahala.' I have no control over a situation na sobrang unexpected na mangyari. I don't have time for negativity. I just block it.

They make me tougher and stronger. And kumbaga, 'dun mo masusukat 'yung tenacity ng isang tao—if you know people want to bring you down but you still get to do what you love the most. I think that is the most important thing.

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I just want to perform. I want to make people happy. I want to make music and spread it sa mga tao. I just want to influence din in my own little way.

And I'm very lucky and blessed that I have my family, my friends, my supporters. I wouldn't be here right now if it weren't for them.

What are you looking forward to doing in your career?

I'm looking forward to making more music and doing more acting projects. I'm starting to like acting talaga. Of course, I like singing but acting is like my second passion. I wanna do action roles! Like Angelina Jolie, of course.

I think magkakaroon ako ng concert by the end of this year din, and it's going to be very intimate. I'm gonna be singing some of my songs, some of my compositions, and some of the songs that [my fans] like.

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I also want to pursue my Master's degree. I really want to but I think I'm just not ready yet, I guess. I've thought about it [a lot]. Like a month before the enrollment, I did the essay, lahat ng requirements okay na, mage-enroll na lang ako. Pero sabi ko, 'di ako sure. It's always good to have a fallback din. I just don't think it's appropriate for me sa ngayon. But I'm not saying no to it. Hopefully, sana—if God tells me to.

I also want to try Broadway! Para naman maiba. Kasi iba 'yung training sa Broadway, iba 'yung training sa TV, iba 'yung training sa film. I've seen a few plays rinWicked, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Anna and the King. So far, 'yan 'yung mga favorites ko.

If there's a song that you could relate to the most right now, what would it be?

"Written in the Stars" by Tinie Tempah. It's about 'yung pinagdaanan niya, 'yung mga taong nandiyan for you, and 'yung mga tao who put you down. And despite all the trials, challenges, and obstacles—you never lose track kasi you know your goal. You know na dito ka ile-lead ni Lord. ganoon kasi ako! Parang ako, 'di ko talaga ine-expect na mapupunta ako dito ngayon. I joined this contest and I lost, but then I started performing sa different variety shows. And then I had this opportunity to sign with GMA. They gave me the chance to perform and have concerts, and do some acting projects din—which I'm really grateful for.

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'Nung natalo ako, sabi ko, maybe hindi ito para sa akin. And maraming beses ako muntik mag-quit—pero hindi, eh. 'Pag gusto mo talaga, 'yun talaga. Siguro nga it's "written in the stars."

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Jico Joson, Mixi Ignacio

VIDEO: Trina Elefante

HAIR: Rhoy Cervantes

MAKEUP: Kaye Misajon

STYLING: Ash Aquino

Follow JacindaTrina, Jico, and Mixi on Instagram.