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EXCLUSIVE: Debutante Of The Year Andrea Brillantes Celebrates Her 18th Birthday With Metro

In her official photo shoot for her debut, the young star, social media maven, and fashion/beauty muse rocks 18 looks to mark this occasion in style

“The best thing about me is I’m goal-oriented,” Andrea Brillantes wrote on her book #GOALS: Your Epic Journey to be the Best You. She was just 13 years old at the time it was published. Her voice may have been sweet and childish then, but the words that were coming out of her mouth and even her thought process prove she is wise beyond her years. After all, she has been working since she was seven and has been a breadwinner since 10, exposed to the harsh realities of the world early on.


Back then, the hashtag #hugot was ubiquitous, with young Filipinos’ statements and conversations punctuated by emotionally charged phrases or sentences. Andrea was a self-confessed #hugot queen, squeezing a punchline or two every chance she got. In more ways than one, that side of her is still very much intact today. She still has a stream of musings about life, love, and work, and she can still go on and on about her dreams, her goals and—in a raw and real moment—even her self-doubts and insecurities and how she is overcoming them. But her thoughts have considerably become more profound; she has become a little more selective of her words without losing the authenticity that has endeared her to so many.  


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Red ball gown by Michael Leyva | Photography by Doc Marlon Pecjo
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Five years have passed since we worked on her book, and Andrea has inevitably changed. Change is constant. Change is good. That is proof of growth and maturity. But at the same time, not changing and staying the same through the years can also say a lot about how self-assured and grounded one is. You have to have a certain level of understanding of how life works to strike and maintain that balance between ambitiousness and humility. 


Seeing Andrea and talking to her again years later amidst a pandemic (whether via a grainy, laggy Zoom interview or a chance meeting at a “new normal” shoot where she recognized me even with my face mask and face shield on), it was clear she’s still the same Blythe (ICYDK, her real name is Ramona Blythe Gorostiza)—wide-eyed, down-to-earth, and bursting with energy. 


She was popular then, but she’s an even bigger, brighter star now. Yet, clearly, success hasn’t gotten to her head.     

  

Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Lilac ball gown with yellow butterfly details by Mak Tumang
Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Lavender ruffled gown by Francis Libiran
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Five years ago, we talked about love and its different faces. Andrea gushed about her love for work. She says, “Hindi lahat ng bata eh nabibigyan ng chance to do what they love at an early age, kaya I treasure and cherish my work. Lalo na dahil ito ang susi sa tagumpay, ang daan para matupad ko ang mga pangarap ko. Like my dream for my family: to have a big house with a swimming pool.” 


The following year, in 2017, we would work together again on another book, this time with her fellow BFF5 members Loisa Andalio, Maris Racal, Ylona Garcia, and Kira Balinger, BFF 5: Sugar & Spice. It was a project that required her to open up again about her deepest thoughts. Andrea ponders, “My greatest fear? Mawalan ng career. Gusto ko talagang magtagal bilang artista. Sana ’pag 18 na ako, meron na akong apartment, nag-iipon na ako para sa sariling bahay ko, naibili ko na ng house ang family ko, at may dalawa o tatlong kotse na kami.”


Early this year, just a couple of months before she turns 18 on March 12, she excitedly shared that her dream house for her family is finally done despite COVID-caused delays. “You were my longest (10 years) and most difficult dream to come true. You have always been at the back of my mind since I was young, pushing me to work harder. I’m so happy you made it this year with everything that happened,” Andrea writes on Instagram.


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Green and floral ruffled dress by Mark Bumgarner
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Whether consciously or subconsciously, she met the deadline she set for herself. Andrea wanted to achieve something big by the time she officially entered womanhood, and she was dead-set on reaching that goal. Perhaps that’s the power of the law of attraction, too; she voiced out her goals as often, as loud, and as sincerely as she could, and the universe allowed them to happen.  


Now, you’ll see her churning out social media content, lounging by the pool or balcony of her new Mediterranean-inspired home. Her musical.ly videos, for which she was famous for, have evolved to clips on TikTok, an app made for short videos, where she’s reigning as a queen with more than 11 million followers. Her Instagram following is growing and growing as well. Last September, interestingly in the same year that can be considered as her tenth showbiz anniversary, she hit 10 million followers on Instagram and, as of this writing, has 10.7 million followers. She had a 10-shaped cake customized to celebrate the feat, and that was the closest thing to a celebration that she got ever since she was seven.


If the pandemic didn’t happen, she would have wanted to celebrate her 18th birthday by experiencing the beaches of Hawaii. For now, she is more than happy to have the chance to squeeze in a quick escape to Siargao soon in between her work commitments. 


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Orange tulle one-shoulder gown by Debbie Co
Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Mint green tulle gown by Steph Tan
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Beauty, talent, and personality may be the main ingredients for success in the field of entertainment, but hard work, discipline, and sometimes even a sprinkle of luck and good timing are what complete the recipe. In a past interview, Andrea’s mom, Belle, was all praises for her daughter for being mindful of spending her hard-earned money, saying, “Smart s’ya sa paggastos, siguro kasi alam n’ya kung paano ang magpuyat para kumita.” 


Each of the roles she played—whether Princess in E-Boy, Annaliza Querubin in Annaliza, Lorraine Magpantay in Hawak Kamay, Lia Buenavista in Pangako Sa’Yo, or Stephanie Chan in Ikaw Lang ang Iibigin—has contributed to her success as a young star. But what she now considers as a turning point in her career, and even her life, is Kadenang Ginto, the widely popular teleserye that had Andrea portraying the kontrabida character of Marga Bartolome.  


“[Kadenang Ginto] was very life-changing,” Andrea points out. The project landed on her lap at a time when she was questioning whether she was still cut out for the job or not, as the opportunities she had been praying to get were slipping through her fingers. She desperately wanted to fill that void in her with a project she could be truly passionate about. Then came Kadenang Ginto, and it served as the golden ticket into a kind of stardom she did not expect to blessed with at such a turbulent phase in her life.


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Pink ball gown with puffed sleeves by Patricia Santos
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Nu’ng una, medyo skeptical pa ako kasi kontrabida siya [si Marga] pero nu’ng natanggap ko ’yun, nagdasal ako sa Kanya. Sabi ko, bigyan mo lang ako ng opportunity. Ayoko hingin Sa’yo na gawin mo akong sikat. Bigyan Mo ako ng opportunity tapos kukunin ko ’yan, ako na magtra-trabaho for it, ako na ang magbibigay ng lahat ko. At ibinigay Niya ’yung Kadenang Ginto. Sabi ko, ibibigay ko ang lahat sa role na ito and nu’ng nagkaroon ng Kadenang Ginto, bumuhos naman ’yung blessings.”


The award-winning, top-rated, and viral series paired Andrea with rising actor Seth Fedelin. Together, they formed the well-loved and in-demand love team SethDrea; one of the two couples that make up the fan fave Gold Squad alongside Kyle Echarri and Francine Diaz (collectively known as KyCine). 


2018’s Kadenang Ginto was the last puzzle piece to complete the dream family home Andrea had been picturing in her head. This teleserye ended in February 2020, about a month before a lockdown was announced due to COVID-19. What followed was an unexpected yet welcome break from more than a year of portraying Marga. 


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Pleated strapless dress by Vania Romoff | Cake by Hearts & Bells
Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Blue and pink sparkly dress with ribbon details by Mark Bumgarner
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Like many, Andrea struggled with the new normal. Although she thrives online, considering her background as a social media maven and YouTuber, months-long of all-digital work hadn’t been easy. “Ako ’yung magse-setup ng camera at lights, ako rin ’yung mag-e-edit, tapos ako ’yung magpi-picture, ako iisip ng itsura ng gagawin ko, so ako rin nagse-set design... ginawa ko lahat. So, du’n ako nahirapan nu’ng new normal.”  


Being a one-woman content creator during a challenging and unpredictable time was tiring overall. But every time she couldn’t find that motivation and would lose her focus or energy, Andrea would simply remind herself to be grateful that she still has work to worry about in the first place. Then visions of her dreams that she’s yet to accomplish would come to mind, and they immediately fuel her passion.


Last year, while she made room for discovering new hobbies and interests, such as baking and learning how to speak Spanish, she also tried her best to be productive not just with work-related outputs but also her creative outlets. She became more active on YouTube, where she almost has 2.7 million subscribers, and is taking vlogging seriously again.


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Blue strapless long gown by Michael Leyva
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Since December last year, Andrea has also been back to filming on location, doing weeks-long of lock-in tapings or bubbles for upcoming romance/fantasy series Huwag Kang Mangamba, which is set to premiere on March 22. In the series, Andrea is Mira, a blind teen who’s in search of her mother. She and Francine (who plays the rebellious Joy) are portraying characters here that are opposite from their Kadenang Ginto personas. 


Andrea tells Metro.Style, “Ni-request ko kasi na ’wag maging kontrabida ulit kasi ayoko ma-typecast at mas gusto kong maipakita na hindi lang ako kontrabida... Although, kahit minahal naman ng mga tao si Marga, gusto ko naman maipakita na kaya ko rin ito. Kaya natuwa ako na una, mabait siya [si Mira]. Pangalawa, dati ko pa gustong magkaroon ng role na bulag ako.”


She continues, “So, nu’ng pinitch siya, una po kasing pinakilala sa story con si Mira—si Mira ay isang bulag na babae’yung mukha ko talaga, ‘Oh my god! Tinext ko kaagad si mama: ‘Mama, bulag ako dito.’ So, natuwa rin ako kasi ngayon, ang gaan-gaan ni Mira. Kasi dati kay Marga, more than one year ’yun, more than one year din ako na everyday mayroong migraine. Promise, no joke. Ganu’n kabigat at ka-stressful si Marga... Nakaka-drain si Marga. Ako nga ’yung kontrabida pero mas iyakin pa ako sa bida kasi ang dami kong galit, ang dami kong inggit, ang dami kong problema, kaya sobra akong na-drain sa kanya.”      


Marga may have been emotionally draining to portray, but there’s no denying she’s also been the most emotionally fulfilling for Andrea so far, considering how much Filipino viewers embraced her as an actress despite her mean character. 


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Teal ruched tulle dress by Erika dela Cruz
Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Top by Patton and yellow skirt by Michael Leyva
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The milestone of Andrea celebrating her 18th birthday is bookended by these two major projects, making this chapter in her life all the more special. It also ushers a better Andrea, someone with a steely determination to make a name as a versatile character actress.


She knows what she wants and how to get them, but now more than ever, she knows it’s always best to trust God’s timing. “Naalala ko lahat ng ipinagdadasal ko dati, bumalik ngayon at triple pa. Sabi ko, iba talaga ’yung timing ni Lord. ’Pag hindi para sa iyo, hindi, pero ’pag para sa iyo, para sa iyo,” she says.   


Andrea adds candidly, still working hard to deliver on the promise she made to herself some five years ago, “May gusto pa akong bilhin na kotse.” Once she recovers financially from the expenses of building a family home from scratch, purchasing something as big as that for herself for the first time in her life is her next goal. 


When asked what she’s most excited about turning 18 and officially entering adulthood, it’s actually not the typical ones—like not having curfews or having the ‘license’ to party—it’s having a driver’s license, driving her dream car, and going on a road trip. “Du’n ako pinaka-excited, sa totoo lang, ngayon na 18 na ako,” Andrea says.


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
White button-down shirt, white skirt, black embellished top, headpieces, and black shoes all by Simone Rocha x H&M
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Being 18 is a responsibility, she knows, that’s why she admits that the financial aspect of adulting is something she’ll gladly take her time to get used to. Since she was a child star, Andrea has been so used to depending on her mom to handle her finances. In fact, it was only very recently when she found out how much she’s earning exactly. She shares during our interview last month, “Nasa work ako kahapon, ibinigay sa akin ’yung tseke kasi wala naman akong guardian nu’n kasi sa new normal kailangan plus one lang, so PA ko lang [’yung kasama ko]. Si mama nasa El Nido, so sa akin dineretso ’yung tseke tapos nagulat ako. Sabi ko, ‘Okay, adulting na ba ako?’


“So ngayon na mag-18 na ako, sabi ko kailangan ko na malaman ang TF [talent fee] ko kasi hindi forever na si mama ang maghahawak ng pera ko. Darating din ang araw ’pag 20 na ako siguro, ako na ang maghahawak ng pera ko. Ngayon na mag-18 na ako, mas gagawin ko na ang sarili kong involved sa lahat ng darating na TF. Para hindi biglaan... Ayoko kasi na biglaan na ako ang maghahawak ng pera ko. Kasi ’yung iba, ang nangyayari ’pag nahawakan agad nila ’yung pera nila, nauubos na kasi hindi nila alam paano hawakan. Hindi nila alam paano i-handle. Sobra sila na-e-excite, nauubos agad. Ayoko ’yun mangyari sa akin. Gusto ko unti-unti na involved na ako ngayon. Aalamin ko lahat kung paano’Pag alam ko na lahat at sa tingin ko handa na ako, du’n ko na hahawakan ang pera ko.”


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Tartan dress, khaki trench coat, and hair bow accessories all from Simone Rocha x H&M
Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Neon green feathered short dress by Patty Ang
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Andrea may not have experienced the normal childhood or tweenhood, but she has no regrets about taking this direction. There’s no gripe over missing out on those aspects. Through the years, she has managed to maintain a pretty simple yet concrete mantra. 


Ang mindset ko ay okay ako as long as maging magaling ako sa trabahokasi du’n strict ako sa sarili ko. Binibilang ko ’yung takes ko, kung ilan ’yung mali ko. Dapat hanggang tatlo lang ako. Kailangan mabilis ako sa work. Iniisip ko po lahat eh, mga cameramen, ’yung mga crew, iniisip ko silang lahat,” Andrea shares. “Lagi kong sinasabi na basta maging magaling ako at mabait, ’wag akong magbabago, ’yun lang ang mga rules ko sa sarili ko. So sa akin, wala akong regrets.”          


She adds, “Bumagsak ako pero tumayo ako, nakabangon ako. Ngayon na natupad ko na ’yung lifelong dream ko na magkaroon ng bahay, masasabi ko na wala naman ako ni-regret sa ginawa ko kasi natapos ko parin ’yung pinangarap ko kahit ang daming nangyari.”


Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
On Andrea: Printed dress layered with a black tulle dress and accessories all from Simone Rocha x H&M | On Seth: White button-down, black coat, and checkered trousers from Simone Rocha x H&M
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Andrea has been through many ups and downs. Things and situations have changed. Even life as we know it has changed. 


She, too, has changed. 


But the sparkle in her eyes, her sweet personality, her humility, and her zest for life, they haven’t changed.


She hasn’t changed. 


Ate Grace, gusto ko pa rin maging DarBel,” she tells me as we were about to end the interview, reminding me of that chapter in her book where she spoke about her dream of playing the role of a mermaid or a Darna and Dyesebel in one (thus the name she coined, DarBel) whether in a film or a TV series.


Five years from now, who would Andrea be? What would she have achieved by then? Who knows, maybe she’ll make local showbiz history as the first-ever DarBel? After all, it’s free to dream big, even seemingly out-of-this-world, dreams. Now, just look at where all those dreams of hers have taken her.


It’s been one epic journey for Andrea. But the best is yet to come. A new journey is just about to unfold.

 

Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
On Andrea: Red ball gown by Joe San Antonio | On Seth: Gray coat and pants both by Vin Orias
Andrea Brillantes in her official photo shoot for debut with Metro
Yellow butterfly gown by Mak Tumang









Photography by Doc Marlon Pecjo

Creative direction and fashion styling by Eldzs Mejia

Sittings editors: Kat Cruz-Villanueva, Geolette Esguerra, and Chris Lopez

Makeup by Anthea Bueno

Hairstyling by RJ dela Cruz

Videography by NicePrint Photo

Set design by The Event Studio by Gideon Hermosa

Cake and cupcake props by Hearts & Bells Cakes

Fashion stylist's assistants: Carl Alberto and Ara Madrigal

Coordination by Grace Libero-CruzJudy Arias, and Cara Tirona

Shot on location at Palacio de Memoria

Special thanks to Star MagicLauren DyogiThess GubiEdith Fariñas, Smile Abrenica, Charisse TinioCasa Luxia, Curentals, C&L Décor, and Faund Manila