Ronnie Henares: The Imagemaker
A tribute to the man who fashioned the images of Do? a Buding out of Nanette Inventor, a capella kings out of the Tux, and Regine Velasquez out of a
Bulakena? a lass.
Agenda's Noel D. Manapat interviews Ronnie Henares about his greatest Pygmalion story yet.
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR GALATEA?
Ronnie: I was the executive producer of "Penthouse Live" and we thought of getting new faces but good artists. Once when we were at the end of our rope not knowing who to get, Pops Fernandez suggested Chona Velasquez. She said that she's very good. Based on that, we got her. Pikit-mata.
WITHOUT SEEING HER?
Ronnie: Only when she came to rehearse. There she was - chinky-eyed, in pigtails, some lelang-type of dress, and shoes that looked like she walked 5 kilometers on gravel road. But when she opened her mouth and sang "Love Me Again," I realized, "Wow!" So I ran down and offered her management!
INDEED BEFORE THE GREAT REGINE, THERE WAS A GIRL NAMED CHONA!
Ronnie: Yes! But I guess for a singer who's that young and with that look - I hope the Chonas of the world won't ttake offense - pero parang hindi yata bagay, hindi yata pang-star. So we asked what her real name was. It was Maria Regina Encarnacion Velasquez.
HOW DID IT FINALLY BECOME REGINE?
Ronnie: Actually, there were 2 studies: Regine and Regie. Regine was a youthful girl who would eventually transform into a glamorous lady. Somebody who walked out of these exclusive villages and then ended up in showbiz. Atsaka hindi Re-jin ha, Rei-jhin!
Then I looked at her again and said, "Uh-oh, we might not be able to pull off the Regine." My wife, Ida, who's our creative director, suggested, "why don't we use Regie?" Regie was cutesy lang na boyish kind of look.
Ida: But when we asked her, she said, "I kind of like the Regine," so
Regine it is. But who could tell? She was able to become Regine.
HOW ROUGH A GEM WAS SHE?
Ronnie: When we first watched her at BB's, Ida wanted to walk out after 3 songs. "Kaya ba natin iyan, can we fix her?" she asked. But I said, "she's got so much talent!" "And another thing, she's always screaming. It's great she can hit her high notes and we don't know where it's coming from - but after 3 songs, rinding-rindi na ang tenga ko." I said, "We can fix that, too. That's not a problem."
HOW DID THE TRANSFORMATION BEGIN?
Ronnie: During that time, her problem was her front teeth which were rotting. And then she had a tooth in the back, parang sungki ba. So when the director would take a bottom shot, you'd think that she was missing a tooth, but it was just pushed in. I suggested that we needed caps. The next time I saw her, she had caps, pero ang laki, siguro ginawa lang sa Bulacan. So we went to Dr. Modesto Tatlonghari, and told him: "This girl is talented, she doesn't have money and we're not a bank. Puwede bang paiyakan ang bayad, patak-patak?" He agreed. When it was done, the nose came out, that's why a lot of people think that she had her nose done!
OK. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE EYES? TALK GOES THAT THE REASON SHE REFUSES TO BE
MADE UP BY ANYONE OTHER THAN HERSELF IS BECAUSE THEY'RE DONE!
Ida: No! At the beginning she just didn't know how to fix her eyes. She was chinita so her makeup had to be really worked out. Her kilay wasn't even there, kulang-kulang. It was just out of plucking and training. As she came to Fanny (Serrano) and all these makeup artists, being an artist herself, she would learn it, until she got it, until she bought her own makeup.
HOW ABOUT HER SKIN? WHEN SHE DID THE LUX AD, SOME RAISED EYEBROWS,
SPECULATING THAT HER FAIRNESS WAS JUST A PRODUCT OF BLEACHING.
Ida: No, she was always fair. But just like how teens would go through skin changes, she had pimples at the back. So we sent her to our sister-in-law, Dr. Vicky Belo, but nothing more. In the beginning, everyone wanted to help her. Cinderella story talaga.
ONE OF HER GREAT STRENGTHS NOW IS HER FASHION STYLE? HOW WAS IT DEVELOPED?
Ida: First of all, we had to work with her physique which was very, very flat. So you had to pad it a bit, everything was to make it bigger, to cover it up, to balance it. But there was a time na sumobra, overpadded!
BUT THEY WERE A MATTER OF NECESSITY!
Ronnie: Yes, in the beginning. Yung puwit niya bagsak. Actually, there was no puwit. We were trying to figure out what to do, until the father finally solved the problem. He made a padding.
Ronnie: It's for the panty siguro!
Ida: A lot of people helped us. Fanny for makeup and clothing. I, for example, who was very skinny thought that my clothes would fit her. Of course, there was Kirei. Kaya lang, there was a time that she kinda looked a little bit too old na for her age.
I REMEMBER WHEN SHE DID "PIK PAK BOOM," ALL HER CO-STARS HAD JUVENILE LOOKS,
EXCEPT HER WHO WAS IN A PADDED BLOUSE.
Ronnie: Naku! Iniyakan niya ako minsan while we were having a meeting. She said she doesn't feel like a young person, because her outfits were sometimes over. Sobra na! I said, "Fine, go to Greenhills, go shopping with Mrs. Henares just to make sure you are buying the right things. She bought leggings, polos, etc.."
WERE THEY TO YOUR LIKING?
Ida: Yes. At the beginning, we were strict kasi you're still establishing a look. Eventually, they just go with what they feel. You can't naman tell them everything. Eventually, they would have to buy on their own.
THERE WAS A TIME SHE HAD THE BEST SHORT HAIR IN THE BUSINESS! WHOSE IDEA
Ronnie: Hers! We were doing a show called "True Colors" but 2 weeks before the show, it still wasn't selling. The producers had to postpone it. In her frustration, she cut her hair. It became a fashion statement.
HOW DID SHE TAME HER VOICE AND HONE HER SINGING?
Ronnie: In the beginning, we taught her song-imaging. The first song that she did was "Magkaisa." She was just 16 then, so I go, "First paragraph, pretend that you're talking to your best friend; the second, to your barkada; the third, you're standing on top of a tank." She got a standing ovation after that.
MARKETING-WISE, HOW DID YOU STRATEGIZE HER ENTRY INTO THE BIG LEAGUE?
Ronnie: In the beginning, since a lot of the major stars - Martin, Pops, Gary, Sharon - were enamored with her talent, we made her do numbers with them, not necessarily to sapaw them. But if she can stand her ground, the viewer might be provoked to ask who the hell is she. That's how she got noticed for her talent.
HOW MUCH DOES A NEWCOMER LIKE HER EARN?
Ronnie: Before we discovered her in 1986, she was earning 300 pesos for 3 sets of 4 minutes each at BB's. She would even take the bus, not airconditioned, mind you, from Bulacan going to Manila, sometimes standing during the trip, do her sets, have dinner, then take the taxi going home, since she couldn't take the bus anymore, at a cost of 150 pesos.
IMAGINE HER NOW!
Ronnie: 300,000 pesos for 3 songs!
HOW WAS HER STAGE PRESENCE POLISHED? WAS SHE AS ARTICULATE AS SHE IS NOW?
Ronnie: When Boss Vic (del Rosario) asked if she could perform at Circus Circus in SM City, we agreed. It was then that I'd teach her spiels and she mentioned, "uncomfortable akong mag-English, baka magkamali pa ako." So I said, "talk Tagalog, as long as you give me a straight thought." By chance, siguro that's what people picked up: there's this Bulakena who talks in deep Tagalog, but when she sings, Class A naman ang kanyang talent. And her English doesn't sound bad, walang tama.
Ida: For someone who didn't finish school, to speak the language as well as she does today, you can see how this girl learns!
Ronnie: We also surrounded her with people who come from exclusive schools. She would talk to them. Even with the spiels and the songs, she would go through them and study the enunciation as well as the meaning.
Ida: In the beginning, there was a time our hearts stopped. At a show at Birdland, we were saying, "talk naman to the audience." There were some guys who were really fat, and she goes to one who's really big, "Haay! Hello, how are you? Bagay na bagay tayo!" "Wow! Pa-charming!" we said. "Para tayong lechon - ikaw baboy, ako bamboo!" Oh my God! But we were all laughing. But that was also partly her charm.
Ronnie: But when she got comfortable, she realized that she could get away with being naughty. I remember in New York, Carnegie Hall pa naman. She loves to come in really high stilletos, but it would always be masakit in the end. So one time, she kicked and it flew. Everybody laughed. So sinipa na rin ang isa. It worked. That's when she started to sing while barefoot.
AT CARNEGIE HALL, WHAT A START! WERE THERE TIMES WHEN THINGS DID NOT TURN
OUT AS PLANNED?
Ida: Yes. The one that is disastrous for me, and we received flak for it, was in the show with Kuh Ledesma in the States. Her outfit was supposed to be already settled. Then Kuh came out in a dropdead Rodeo Drive-gown! It was serpentina and all glittery. And what a figure to boot! And then at the last minute, she came out with something that was sooo tight that it wasn't flattering to the body. And at that time, she was big. You know onstage, when the lights hit you, everything is emphasized? It was written about in the States.
Ronnie: And then another time, she came out in a black gown with a cape, and somebody wrote something horrible, like she could have been the lead star of the Anjanette Abayari film, "Vampira." At the end of the show, she was upset, so obviously she realized. You know when something is not right, it really looks bad.
OF COURSE, THERE WERE MORE FABULOUS MOMENTS THAN FASHION FAUX PAS?
Ronnie: Definitely. When she was rumored to be pregnant, she wanted to make a point out of it. At her show in Ultra, she came out in this beautiful black gown by Louie Mamengo which was one-sided, really slim. She was sooo beautiful!
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE REGINE STORY?
Ronnie: Two years ago, she was beginning to get round, but I couldn't tell her because she might get insulted. When I found her in a jolly mood, I decided to tell her myself. "You know, if you want to make it internationally, you should be in perfect shape." "You know, Boss, I feel depressed. When I was younger, I was thin because we didn't have any money. Now, I have all the money and still I could not eat!"
WHEN WERE YOU FINALLY ABLE TO SAY THAT "AAH, THIS IS THE REGINE THAT WE
ENVISIONED HER TO BE"?
Ronnie: It took 4 years, during her Louie Mamengo days. Everybody wanted to date her, including this gentleman who you wouldn't expect because they were really, really poles apart. It was like a fairytale.
WHAT IS HER STRENGTH? WHAT MADE HER EVOLVE INTO HER OWN SELF?
Ida: The reason she's gone far is, unlike other people who are close-minded, she's like a sponge. She develops, she absorbs, she learns. She's experimental, brave enough, daring enough, to try anything until she gets it.
Ronnie: She's a perfectionist!
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP THE REGINE VELASQUEZ SUCCESS STORY?
Ronnie: Believe it or not, everything just fell into place. It was all perfect thing. We couldn't have done it just by ourselves. It's an orchestration- her, us, great talent - my whole objective is to say that it wasn't really just us!
NOW, REGINE VELASQUEZ, GLAMOROUS YOUNG WOMAN. IS ON HER OWN, SOARING HIGH. AND YES, STILL IN STYLE.
Happy 25 Years in Showbiz!
Source! Agenda/ Rb Ablan/ reocities.com
vid by ericfoz1