Andrea Brillantes is everywhere. Her face is recognizable far and wide, what with her numerous commercials and endorsements, teleseryes, and movies. On social media, she has 13.5 million followers on Instagram and over 746K on Twitter. And for two years in a row, she remains to be the most followed Filipina on TikTok, amassing 17.5 million followers to date. It goes without saying, her ubiquitous presence is simply inescapable.
While Andrea, fondly referred to as Blythe, is no doubt one of the biggest stars in her generation, make no mistake—her success didn’t happen overnight. She has been grinding in the industry since she was six years old, and even now, the 19-year-old actress still feels like she’s just getting started.
Andrea Brillantes for Candy April 2022
Andrea Brillantes for Candy April 2022
An Uphill Climb
Andrea was only three years old when she first dreamt of becoming an artista. Initially, though, she really wanted to be a singer. “Ang pangarap ko talaga [noong una] ay maging pop star,” she looks back, citing music superstars like Beyoncé and Sarah Geronimo as her ultimate ~life goals~. That path was cut short, however, with someone telling her she was always off-key. “Kaso inasar ako na sintunado, so naging artista na lang ako,” she jokes.
Kidding aside, at that tender age, while most of us were learning about shapes, colors, and the alphabet, the four-year-old Andrea was already beginning to plant the seeds of her career. Her biggest audition at the time was for the role of Cruzita in the 2007 hit series Marimar, which was ultimately given to Kapuso child star Chesca Salcedo while Andrea had to come home empty-handed.
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After two auditions, the aspiring young actress recalls feeling disheartened and having nothing left to give. “Wala, wala talaga ako nabigay. So nag-stop si Mama, ‘Ay, baka hindi talaga para dito yung anak ko,’ tapos nawala na rin sa’kin [yung enthusiasm].”
While things might have looked bleak for Andrea at the time, it was an accident involving her brother that eventually served as another bridge for her and her dreams. While she didn't specify the details, she revealed that she blamed herself for this incident and couldn’t help but think of a way to pay her brother back. “Naaksidente yung kuya ko nung New Year’s Eve,” she recounts. “Meron kami nahanap na Little Miss Confetti—parang beauty pageant sa mga bata—sumali ako. Tapos yung prize, binigay ko sa kuya ko tsaka ate ko.”
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While she might not have bagged the first place at the said contest, the small taste of victory became a momentous feat for the young Andrea, reigniting her desire and determination to chase after her dreams and push the envelope. “Sabi ko kay Mama, ‘Ma, artista na ‘ko.’ So simula noon, doon ako nag-audi-audition ulit,” she shares.
Like everyone else who aspire to make a name for themselves in this cutthroat industry, Andrea had to brave the heat and wait patiently in long lines for a shot at one day turning her dreams into a reality. “Doon ako nag-simula, talagang nagco-commute ako, pipila ako ilang oras. ‘Di makukuha, minsan makukuha… madalas hindi. Doon nag-start ang lahat.”
Annaliza, ABS-CBN’s 2013 family drama, was Andrea’s first lead role, where she played a long-lost daughter deprived of a mother’s love. The teleserye put her name on the show biz map and even earned her her first acting awards, but it was Kadenang Ginto in 2018 that undoubtedly catapulted her into the limelight. “Nakilala ako sa Annaliza, pero mas nakita ng tao yung talent ko tsaka mas feeling ko na-appreciate ako sa Kadenang Ginto talaga,” she admits.
Her role as Marga Mondragon in the ABS-CBN series became the turning point not only of her career but also of her life. “If it wasn’t for Kadenang Ginto, baka ‘di ko na alam gagawin ko sa buhay ko ngayon,” she states, noting that before that role, she was at her lowest point at the time. “Yung Kadenang Ginto, binago niya yung buhay ko, buhay ng family ko. Binuo niya ‘ko as a person at tinulungan niya ‘ko sobra.”
During her Candy cover shoot, Andrea was dressed in Japanese schoolgirl-inspired outfits. She posed gamely for the camera, needing little to no direction from the team. In between takes, she would go straight to the laptop and browse through her shots, taking pictures of her favorites. She also asked us about our birthdays and guessed our corresponding zodiac signs. (She got it right every time, much to our amazement.) “Mahilig talaga ako sa mga zodiac sign, mga tarot,” she divulges.
It was in these moments that I caught brief glimpses of the teenager she was supposed to be, so I couldn’t help but ask her if she ever feels like she missed out on her childhood. “Oo talaga,” she answers without hesitation. “Pero ngayon kasi, natanggap ko na siya e, pero dati hindi pa. Hirap na hirap na hirap ako [i-accept]. Ngayon, hindi na rin ako takot, eh. Dati ang dami ko gusto gawin pero hindi pwede kasi artista ako.”
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With a wistful smile, she recalls not having experienced attending prom and going on field trips—some of the “normal” teenage things she missed out on. “Favorite ko mga field trip pero sa buong buhay ko, isang beses lang ako nakapag-field trip,” she shares. As for prom? Well, the yearly Star Magic Ball is the closest thing she has experienced that’s presumably quite like it, and she finds some sort of consolation from it.
She also cites one of the major experiences she missed from being a normal student. “Sumali ako dati sa cheering squad ng school ko [as a flyer], pero dahil nga meron akong show, sinacrifice ko na hindi makasali sa mga trainings and competitions.”
In hindsight, despite all of those compromises that she had to make in the name of her career, Andrea notes that she did get some semblance of normalcy before her rise to fame. She shares, “Since nung nag-start naman ako maging artista, ‘di naman ako sikat agad. So parang na-experience ko hanggang eight years old na mag-laro sa labas. Naging batang kalye ako.”
The Ups and Downs of Fame
Naturally, with the fame came intense scrutiny. Andrea is no longer a stranger to rude comments, having been in the industry for nearly two decades. But at one point, one has to ask: Does the hate ever get to her?
“Lumaki kasi talaga ako na binu-bully na ‘ko, kahit hindi pa ‘ko artista. As in sa school, wala talaga akong friends. Parang buong buhay ko, hindi siya nawala. Kaya tinanggap ko na lang talaga hanggang sa hindi na ko naaapektuhan.”
Even as she learned to grow thick skin from years of having unsolicited comments hurled at her, Andrea admits that there are still some things she gets sensitive about. That said, she isn’t about to lose sleep over them. “Pinaka naiinis ako ‘pag tinatawag akong pabebe kasi kikay ako,” she shares, adding that she has been made fun of countless times due to her high-pitched voice. “Wala lang talaga akong mababago sa boses ko, ganito lang talaga siya, maliit siya.”
Speaking of bashers, it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room, given the barrage of issues that the young actress has dealt with lately. There’s a rumored love triangle with her two former co-stars Francine Diaz and Seth Fedelin and an alleged dressing room confrontation, which Andrea recalls was the one time she didn’t read the comments on her social media and went radio silent instead, only deciding to air out her side via an almost 11-minute-long tell-all on Instagram Live. Of course, there was also that very public proposal between her and basketball star Ricci Rivero, and even a viral “sinabawang hotdog” moment from a music video she recently starred in. True enough, for a young star who’s constantly in the spotlight, the controversies are seemingly endless.
Andrea, for her part, does admit that she tried pleasing the naysayers before—she is only human, after all. “Pero simula nung Kadenang Ginto talaga, nagbago lahat. Wala na akong pake sa mga sinasabi ng mga tao,” she notes.
I ask her if she still reads the mean comments on her Instagram today, and she says she still does sometimes, though it isn’t for the reason you’d expect. “Nae-entertain ako sa kanila,” she confesses in a thoughtful tone. “Nasa internet lang sila, eh.”
A Different Perspective
Having started out in the industry at such a young age, it seems inevitable that Andrea would be on the brink of crumbling at the weight of her responsibilities. “Sobrang dami talagang pinagdaanan ng mental health ko,” she admits, enumerating and perhaps oversimplifying the struggles she went through. “Nagsimula yung body dysmorphia ko at 10, na-depress ako at 11. Nagka-eating disorder ako at 14.”
What eventually pulled her out of that black hole was the success of Kadenang Ginto, during which she finally started feeling the fruits of her labor and years of hard work. “Kumapit lang talaga ako, ang daming beses na ayoko na, pero pinilit kong kumapit. Nawala lang [yung hirap] nung Kadenang Ginto, kasi do’n ko talaga naramdaman lahat ng blessings.”
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Another vivid moment from Andrea’s core memory was a trip to Vietnam’s sand dunes when she was 15. Looking at the vast expanse, Andrea says she started crying because it felt like she was seeing the world for the first time again.
“‘Pag depressed ka, gusto mo nasa kwarto ka lang talaga lagi tas talagang malungkot ka lang the whole day. ‘Wag mo talaga ikulong yung sarili mo,” she advises. “Tignan mo yung mundo sa ibang perspective. Alam ko they say look at the bright side of life… kahit ‘di naman bright, just a different perspective lang.”
Andrea’s idea of unwinding, whenever she gets the chance to take a break from her busy schedule, is a good book. “Nagbabasa lang ako. Quiet time lang,” she shares, which might seem in contrast to her outgoing and bubbly personality. Her next reads? The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom and the University Series on Wattpad by Gwy Saludes.
One might think that a popular star of Andrea’s caliber has already achieved everything she wants to accomplish, but it’s in fact the seemingly ordinary things that she now wants to tick off her checklist: “Ngayong year, gusto ko na talaga makapag-college na and matuto mag-drive, pero kung hindi mangyari, okay lang,” she reveals. It’s not a pessimistic outlook, mind you, but rather a more realistic one—a sign that she’s mature beyond her years, perhaps cultivated by almost two decades of hustling and putting in the work.
“May goals lang ako, pero nothing is set in stone,” she points out, saying that she prefers going with the flow and seeing where life takes her.
I asked Andrea one last question before we packed up the shoot and bid each other goodbye: “What’s your dream role or genre to tackle?”
“Pangarap ko maging action star,” she says matter-of-factly, offering no further explanation—not that we needed her to give one. Because if there’s one thing we know about this 19-year-old, it’s her ability to surprise everyone with what she can do.
Produced by: The Candy Team
Photographed by: Shaira Luna
Assisted by: Lance Luna
Art Directed by: Bacs Arcebal
Styled by: Marj Ramos
Makeup Artist: Marben Talanay
Hairstylist: RJ Dela Cruz
Set Design and Shoot Location: Concept Space Manila
Special thanks to: Star Magic
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