THE LIST: Pinoy success in US reality TV
As Filipinos celebrate Jessica Sanchez’s amazing run on “American Idol,” making it all the way to the runner-up to this season’s winner Phillip Phillips – the highest finish so far for a contestant with Filipino roots – let’s look at some of the other Filipino-Americans who have made their mark on other American reality TV shows.
You’ll be surprised at how many have even succeeded to go all the way.
1. Jabbawockeez (Winner, “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 1
Who are they: The seven-member, male, hip-hop dance crew with Fil-Am members Chris Gatdula, Phil Tayag, Rainen Paguio and Joe Larot was easily the most striking group during the first season of the Randy Jackson-produced dance competition with their uniform masks and white gloves. They are also the first Filipinos ever to win a US reality TV competition.
Best moment: The group’s performance of Michael Jackson’s “PYT (Pretty Young Thing),” where they had to incorporate signature dance moves of the late pop legend, was hailed by Randy Jackson as the best in the show’s seven seasons.
2. Super Cr3w (Winner, “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 2)
Who are they: Formed from three different b-boy dance crews from the US West Coast, half of the members of the six-member Super Cr3w are Filipinos -- RJ Puno, Ronnie Abaldonado and Angelito Casal. They wowed audiences with their athleticism and stunts.
Best moment: For the finale, Super Cr3w came out in a jacket that was half the Philippine flag and half the Puerto Rican flag. In terms of performance, however, Jackson picked the ninja-influenced “Get Up Offa That Thing,” which quickly established the group as frontrunners.
3. Quest Crew (Winner, “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 3)
Who are they: The hip-hop dance crew from Los Angeles, California is considered by many as the best crew ever to win the MTV dance reality show. The group is composed entirely of Asian-Americans including three with Philippine roots -- Dominic Sandoval, Daniel Ryan Conferido and Aris Sheldon Paracuelles. Sandoval and Conferido also competed as solo dancers on “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Best moment: The group’s performance based on its original composition “orQUESTra” is No. 2 on Randy Jackson's all-time list. Conferido actually played the piano during the middle of the performance while Sandoval performed headspins to the alternating tempos on top of the piano. At the end of the performance, Sandoval did a vertical back flip sideways over two members, and ended with the Quest Crew salute.
4. Poreotix (Winner, “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 5)
Who are they: The all-male dance group specializes in popping, choreography and robotics and for wearing dark glasses for all of their performances. The members are either from Vietnam or the Philippines -- Andrew Fausto Mayate, Lawrence Bravo Devera and Justin Valles.
Best moment: During the regional finals, the crews performed to a song of their choice and Poreotix picked the unlikely country hit “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, easily moving into the next round.
5. Paul Qui (Winner, “Top Chef” Season 9)
Who is he: Born in Manila, Qui moved with his family to Virginia when he was 10 and then to Houston when he was 17. He attended the Texas Culinary Academy, which is now called the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. When he joined the show, the 31-year-old was executive chef at Uchiko restaurant.
Best moment: Qui had the most wins – eight – throughout the season but he himself picked the “Enchanted Forest” of beets, cherry, candied jalapenos and bacon as the best dish he has made on the show. Tasked to create a dish inspired by the movie “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Qui won this challenge, which had actress Charlize Theron as guest judge.
6. Sally Camacho (Runner up, “Top Chef: Just Desserts” Season 2)
Who is she: Born in Clark Air Force Base, the Los Angeles-based Camacho works as the executive pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck's WP24. Camacho was the runner-up, along with Matthew Peterson of Arlington, Virginia, while Chris Hanmer of Las Vegas, Nevada was declared the winner.
Best moment: Camacho scored her only solo win when the contestants had to create a dessert in disguise based upon a savory dish from a cuisine of their choosing. Camacho created a “Cuban sandwich” as a brioche with cream cheese mousse and strawberry caramel gel with a side of “potato salad,” which is actually made from pineapple, banana and Asian pear.
7. Manila Luzon (Runner up, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 3)
Who is he: This Filipino-American drag queen (his real name is Karl Westerberg) who lives in New York City famously impersonated former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos on the drag contest. Not coy about his Filipino roots, he took his drag name from his mother’s home city. His father is American of German and Swedish ancestry.
Best moment: Luzon got into the finals after winning a key challenge where the contestants had to create three looks – swimsuit, cocktail attire and evening gown – and perform a choreographed lip-sync to “Just Wanna Dance” bu guest judge LaToya Jackson. Luzon got positive critiques from the judges, although Jackson thought her hair was too big.
8. Marco Germar (Top 3, “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 8)
Who is he? The 22-year-old Filipino-American grew up in Guam and moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to pursue his career in dance. He landed a job in Disneyland, performing in a show based on the movie “Aladdin.” Interestingly, Germar was competing against another Filipino that season, Tadd Gadduang from Daly City, California. Gadduang finished fourth, while Germar made it to the Top 3.
Best moment: Germar and partner Melanie Moore immediately impressed the judges and their fellow contestants right from the start, when they performed a contemporary piece from Travis Wall to Ingrid Michaelson’s “Turn to Stone,” where they played statues who come to life.
9. Jasmine Trias (Top 3, “American Idol” Season 3)
Who is she? Jasmine Trias and fellow Hawaiian Camille Velasco were the first Filipino-Americans to make the Top 12 of the popular US talent search. But it was Trias, who was born in Honolulu to Filipino immigrants from Cavite, who almost made the finals, finishing in the Top 3, in a season that also included eventual winner Fantasia Barrino and future Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.
Best moment: Apart from the flower which she wears on her hair, Trias is best remembered for her version of Natalie Cole’s “Inseparable.” Judge Paula Abdul threw a flower on the stage after Trias’ performance and the acerbic Simon Cowell simply said, “Jasmine, it was just superb.”
10. MiG Ayesa (Top 3, “Rockstar: INXS”)
Who is he: MiG Ayesa was born in Manila but was raised in Sydney, Australia before moving to London, where he started his career in musical theater as Galileo Figaro in the musical “We Will Rock You.” Since appearing in “Rockstar: INXS,” Ayesa has released a solo album and eventually returned to the stage, notably as the male lead on Broadway’s “Rock of Ages.”
Best moment: Ayesa was considered among the frontrunners in this reality competition to search for the new lead singer of the Australian rock band, especially after he got the prime “encore performance” spot for his stripped-down version of Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way,” while accompanying himself on the piano.
*Asia Nitollano (Winner, “Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll”)
Who is she: Asia Nitollano, who has Filipino, African-American, Mexican and Puerto Rican ancestry, won this reality talent search for the newest member of the popular girl group. It was a 1-2 win for the Philippines on the show as the runner-up Melissa Reyes is also of Filipino descent.
However, her win has been in question since, according to news reports, Nitollano never actually made it to the group. Speculations swirled that she wasn’t good enough and that she had a diva attitude. While the network which produced the show stressed that Nitollano wasn’t booted from the Pussycat Dolls, the CW did admit that Nitollano won’t be a member after the winner opted for a solo career instead.