We didn’t have to think twice about who should be our February Candy cover girl. As Candy turns 23 this year, we wanted a brand new look and a cover girl that would encapsulate that youthful energy for the next chapter we’re about to embark on. Any guesses? She’s a fresh-faced newcomer zealously blazing a path to stardom, a determined go-getter who’s 100 percent dedicated to her craft, and a Gen Z role model who doesn’t conform to the public’s idea of who she should be for the sake of social desirability.
Without a doubt, Francine Diaz is the quintessential Candy girl of the new generation.
Francine Diaz for Candy February 2022
With an endearing face and a sweet persona, the unassuming bystander who hasn’t seen a second of her YouTube videos might describe Francine as someone who is demure, timid, and likes to keep to herself—and sure, for a long time, she was actually extremely reserved. “Dati po kasi talaga hindi ako nagsasalita so akala ng ibang directors sa commercials na, ‘ay, baka nage-English ‘to.’ So ine-English nila ako, kaya hindi ako lalo sumasagot,” she jokes.
Thanks in part to her job as an actress, Francine learned to step out of her shell, and her growth from a shy girl to a lady with quiet confidence was apparent as she posed in front of the camera for her cover shoot. The self-confessed ambivert would calmly and effortlessly assume photogenic poses. (Every casual move she makes ends up becoming a click-worthy shot). And in between layouts, she would get chatty about the latest K-drama she’s hung up on (FYI, it’s All of Us Are Dead) or nonchalantly browse through old copies of Candy magazines bearing the faces of cover stars that came before her.
Francine Diaz for Candy February 2022
Now a certified cover star herself, Francine hardly needs any introduction. But if you’re not one to keep up with Twitter trends and mainstream media, you might not know that her first foray into virality was a major role in the 2018 drama TV series Kadenang Ginto, where she played Cassandra "Cassie" Mondragon. The rest, as they often say, is history.
But Francine’s story has just begun.
The Supporting Role
Francine found her footing in showbiz by taking on commercials and guest roles in TV shows. She would play the younger versions of teleserye leading ladies, only to reap a few minutes’ worth of exposure in one or two episodes. At some point, one can’t help but doubt the process. After all, out of the many hardworking showbiz hopefuls, only a select few truly make it to the top. But like a flicker of candle fire that refuses to die no matter how many times you blow at it, what kept Francine going was the sheer belief that she’s meant for something good and beautiful in life.
She would play the younger versions of teleserye leading ladies, only to reap a few minutes’ worth of exposure in one or two episodes.
On Francine: Puff-sleeved T-shirt, HA.MU.; Vest and Denim Jeans, both Monki; Tulle Top, Sassa Jimenez; Mary Jane Flats, Charles & Keith
“What kept me going is hope,” she tells Candy. “Kasi po dati mahilig akong mag-imagine ng kung ano ba ako sa future, or in five years, three years, ganiyan. And ang ini-imagine ko parati, magaganda lang. Puro positive, like ito po, maging cover ng isang magazine na ngayon nangyari na rin, ma-interview, tapos may endorsements.”
As it turns out, Francine wasn’t just a starry-eyed daydreamer. At 15, she landed her first lead role, she had her first out-of-the-country trip for work soon after, and fast forward to a couple of endorsements and a million YouTube subscribers later, she’s about to become a leading lady for the first time ever. Francine is set to topbill a new limited series called Bola-Bola, where she has not one but three leading men. “Nakakatuwa kasi dati hindi ko po naman ‘to nae-experience e,” Francine shares. “Wala naman ako parati sa main cast, parating supporting roles lang. At ngayon na matatawag akong leading lady, nakakatuwa po. Ang sarap marinig.”
The Real-Life Teleserye
Manifestation has been such a buzzword in recent years, and whether you’re a fervent advocate or a non-believer, some might say that Francine’s success was something she manifested for herself.
Francine and her mom would borrow money for transportation just so she could attend castings and shoot her shot for a project.
As much as it may seem like it, it wasn’t simply an act of ~claiming it~ that got her this far. It’s clear that she also diligently worked hard for it. During the early days of her showbiz journey, Francine would try juggling school with work, but admitted that she couldn’t regularly attend classes as much as she wanted to “kasi wala akong baon.” So instead, she would devote her time to what pays the bills—acting projects and modeling gigs.
Like a scene straight out of a teleserye, Francine and her mom would borrow money for transportation just so she could attend castings and shoot her shot for a project. At some point, they had to knock on a neighbor’s door at midnight to borrow money for commute so she could make it to the shoot location.
On Francine: Bead Top, Thian Rodriguez; Jeans, Monki; Sandals, Pedro
Truth be told, stardom wasn’t initially in the books for Francine. When she was younger, her dream, like so many of us, was to become a doctor. Many bright-eyed children dream of becoming a doctor for all sorts of reasons—to help sick people, to get rich, to wear a white coat and an actual working stethoscope (not the plasticky ones that come in synthetic bright colors). But for Francine, her dream was motivated by a desire to ease her family’s troubles. She shares, “Sakitin kami dati tapos wala kaming pera pangpa-check up. So ang nasa isip ko noon, ‘pag nag-doktor ako, libre lang ang pagpapagamot sa akin. ‘Yun po yung parang naging motivation ko.”
Whether it was getting an MD or being dubbed a promising female star, Francine’s ultimate goal was to help her family out, and regardless of what field she may have ended up pursuing, it’s evident that she was always willing to put in the work to make it happen. It’s an admirable trait proving that, regardless of her family’s financial capabilities, she was raised in a loving, well-mannered home—and that in itself was something she is, and should be, proud of.
On Francine: Top and Pants, both Monki; Dress, HA.MU.; Mules, Charles & Keith
The Star of Her Own Show
It seems all the hard work is starting to pay off for Francine. Her first artista paycheck afforded her new appliances for her family’s home, and since then, she’s fully revamped her family’s living space and even bought a car so they wouldn’t have to commute anymore.
Everything’s coming up roses for the newly minted leading lady. Yet even with the blessings that are coming her way, nothing much has changed in Francine’s life. “Siguro po ang nagbago lang talaga ay may maayos na kaming bahay ngayon at hindi na napuputulan ng kuryente at tubig, and meron nang laman yung ref namin. And the rest, same pa rin naman po,” she says.
Coming of age did not pose much change to her everyday life, either. Turning 18 was like any regular day for Francine, save for the surprise party thrown in her honor by her Belo family. If there’s anything new she hopes to accomplish as a full-fledged adult, it’s to travel with friends (to South Korea, like any other Hallyu fan). But aside from adding another year to the scoreboard of life, she’s just as focused on her goals as any other day.
“Lahat naman nagbabago kaya parang gasgas yung ‘stay who you are’ na line. Kaya ‘yun yung sinasabi nila sa akin, na kung magbabago man, change for the better.”
On Francine: T-shirt, Monki, Net Dress, Miel Avena, Tulle Dress, Sassa Jimenez, Mary Jane Flats, Charles & Keith
That doesn’t mean Francine is averse to any change at all, though. In fact, it’s one of the things she believes to be constant in life, and one she welcomes with open arms. If there’s one thing she’s learned about coming of age from her ates, it’s that you shouldn’t stay who you are. “Lahat naman nagbabago kaya parang gasgas yung ‘stay who you are’ na line. Kaya ‘yun yung sinasabi nila sa akin, na kung magbabago man, change for the better.”
One may think that Francine’s meteoric rise to stardom is an overnight endeavor—the young actress became the darling of fans on social media after starring in a single, albeit internet-famous, soap opera. She grew up from being a leading lady’s younger counterpart to officially becoming one herself—with three leading men, no less. But Francine’s ascent to celebrity status wasn’t a first-class ride, nor was it a short-haul destination. She had to patiently wait for her turn and methodically bide her time until she’s finally able to stand under the spotlight in her own right. And her trip has only just taken off.
Produced by: Mylene Mendoza and Marj Ramos
Photographer: Renzo Navarro
Art Director: Bacs Arcebal
Stylist: Danae Dipon
Stylist’s Associate: Justine Benitez
Makeup Artist: Denise Ochoa
Hairstylist: Brent Sales
Set Design: Migs Alcid, Sophia Adrao, and Claudine Verzosa of Studio Tatin
Special thanks to: Star Magic