PAOLO BALLESTEROS

In a league of his own

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TESSA MAURICIO-ARRIOLA

There is no one quite like Paolo Ballesteros in showbiz today. The T-Zone confidently says so because while most other actors have an idol whose career path they strive to follow—say the young Joshua Garcia who’s been dubbed as the next John Lloyd Cruz—Paolo is in a league of his own, both as a comedic and dramatic actor.

How so? He banks on his expertise in makeup transformation to deliver a more modern approach to gay-themed movies.

Now one can certainly argue that the likes of Michael V. and Paolo’s own friends Jose Manalo and Wally Bayola slather on the makeup and dress up in frocks just as much for their skits, but the difference is, unlike Paolo’s transformations, they are intentionally made to look like drag queens. As such, the idea behind their makeup and dress up is to make them appear funny from the get go.

As for Paolo, rather than look ridiculous to be funny, he naturally draws oohs and aahs when dressed like a woman. And then, depending on the skit or movie scene, he brings out his comedy or drama as a beautiful woman.


For Paolo Ballesteros, his makeup transformations provide him a well of emotions as an actor

In other words, Paolo Ballesteros doesn’t “do drag” in the tradition of comedians as far back as Dolphy himself. What he does is art.

Effective canvas
At the risk of sounding “mayabang,” Paolo explained his artistic process at a pre-birthday gathering last week [he turns 35 on November 29].

“Tinatanong nila ako kung anong naramdaman ko nung nag-react si Gal Gadot sa post ko [transformed]as Wonder Woman. Flattered ako siyempre pero parang ganun din sa lahat ng mga nagla-like.

“Kasi, hindi ko naman ito ginagawa para sumikat sa social media. Yung nararamdaman ng isang artist na nag-pai-paint sa canvas, yun ang nararamdaman ko pag natapos ko yung transformation ko—yung satisfaction. Kumbaga, ako, yung mukha ko ang canvas ko, and for me, ito yung art ko.”

As an actor, Paolo then takes this art a step further and effectively uses it as a well of emotions. Case in point is his award-winning role as Trisha Echeveri in “Die Beautiful,” which touched Japanese movie critics and audiences alike despite obvious cultural differences.

“Mas gusto ko talaga yung nagtra-transform ako [for my roles]. Kasi yung itsura ko, isa yun sa mga pinaghuhugutan ko ng character,” Paolo stressed.

‘Sawa factor’
Even as Paolo seems to have found the perfect formula to achieve artistic satisfaction while pursuing his acting career, is he confident that his transitions will keep audiences entertained from one project to the next?

With ‘Barbi’s’ creator and director Tony Reyes

Case in point again is the back-to-back showing of the comedies “Trip Ubusan,” in which he shares lead billing with Manalo and Bayola [the movie opened on November 22], and this Wednesday’s showing of “Barbi D’ Wonder Beki.”

Merely a week apart, The T-Zone asked Paolo, “Aren’t you worried about the ‘sawa factor’ in showbiz? How people go off something they see too often?”

Paolo was quick with punchline: “Wala kasi akong magagawa… kahit anong gawin ko, ang ganda ko pa rin sa transformations ko!”

Waiting for the laughter to fade, Barbi’s creator and director Tony Reyes stepped in and said, “Ang iba kasi sa mga ginagawa ni Paolo, gay-themed sila pero laging may relevance. Kahit itong Barbi, compared to the original concept we did ni Joey [de Leon, who also starred in the movie franchise in the 1990s], si Bartolome siya—lalaking-lalaki bago maging Barbi out of necessity. For Paolo’s Barbi, closet gay siya from the very beginning na takot lumabas sa pamilya niya tulad ng marami pa ring gays in society.”

Direk Tony even went as far as to promise, “At the end of this movie, may ikatutuwa ang gay community dito—something that will make them proud tulad ng ginawa ni Paolo sa Die Beautiful.”

Finally, as a veteran in the industry, Direk Tony minced no words in addressing The T-Zone’s question.

Turning 35 when his next big movie opens Wednesday, Ballesteros admits ‘It’s the best birthday ever’

Ever so convincingly, he said, “Magtatagal pa si Paolo sa mga projects tulad nito kasi unang-una, may clamor ang tao sa kanya. At pangalawa, walang ibang nakakagawa nito. Si Vice Ganda looks and dresses the way he does everyday on his TV show and in his movies. Si Paolo, siya lang ang may kaya nitong transformation na ito, and it’s an amazing experience to watch him do it and then take on the new character. Joey needed James Cooper turn him into Barbi. But this Barbi, she’s entirely Paolo’s creation.”

Like The T-Zone said, Paolo Ballesteros is indeed in a league of his own.

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Barbi D’ Wonder Beki opens on November 29 from OctoArts Films, M-Zet Productions and T-Rex Films.

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