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Jane De Leon Gets the Glow-Up of a Lifetime

by Owen Maddela | Nov 22, 2019
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A state of grace, it seems, is the best kind of glow-up; but the country’s new super heroine is not about to rest on divine providence alone.

Early this year, the worlds of entertainment, lifestyle, and pop culture were rife with breaking news about a mostly unheard-of actress who outshone show biz’s current crop of stars and stars-in-waiting in landing the role of Darna, superheroine supreme and Pinay icon.

Enter Jane de Leon, the woman of the hour and this generation’s iteration of the well-loved, high-flying character. Jane is the first Darna in recent memory to have come completely from the sidelinesher audition and getting the vote of the upcoming movie’s producers and incoming director Jerrold Tarog disrupted local show biz’s star system, causing what could only be described as a come-from-behind victory.

Jane de Leon for November 2019

Whereas listicles and memes suggested halves of celebrated love teams, former beauty queens, and young character actresses for the role, it was she who got the job: A 21-year-old Star Magic ward who, so far, has only truly made her presence known through her affiliation with noontime variety show girl group Girltrends and a supporting role on primetime show Halik.


Star Cinema head Olivia Lamasan was quoted to have said “there is something about Jane” that set her apart; that she was a unanimous choice by network executives.

But what she lacked in her curriculum vitae, she made up for with what could only be called je nais sais quoi. Star Cinema head Olivia Lamasan was quoted to have said “there is something about Jane” that set her apart; that she was a unanimous choice by network executives. Jerrold Tarog particularly liked her for being “instinctive,” adding that her combined looks, youth, and display of character at auditions made her the right choice for the upcoming movie’s coming of age storyline.

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Today, Jane found herself in the eye of the perfect storm—a whole day of fashion and beauty looks and photo and video requirements. The day’s call slip couldn’t have a been better preparation for the work ahead: a whole-day affair that took her from air conditioned rooms to balmy outdoors and back, transforming from one look to another. Seeing her fluttering about in permutations of tulle, pleats, falsies, and blush with relative ease despite the elements or the prying eyes of curious, photo-snapping pedestrians convinces us of her laser focus. And save for a few layouts that required her to find her footing atop a sofa’s shaky foundation, it seemed that she was confident enough to carry herself through the hitches. That her favorite K-pop tunes were streaming in the background only lifted her spirits—she was under the weather just a day prior—and put her in the mood.

But Jane was not always like this: fabulously preoccupied, eagerly anticipating. Nor have the years been as rosy as recent months.

“I asked myself, ‘After five years, when ba ako magkaka-break?'"


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“I had a lot of insecurities before getting this role,” Jane admits, speaking in a soft and shy tone that bore none of the noontime show chutzpah or teleserye melodramatics that her experiences in Girltrends or Halik should have ingrained in her so far.

By this time, all her shoots had wrapped up and she is to back wearing her own tank top and jeans. Sporting a bare face, she looks like she'd just applied a hint of blush but that was really just her skin’s glow peeking through the hallway’s fluorescent lighting. 

She continues, “I asked myself, ‘After five years, when ba ako magkaka-break?' Yung mga ka-batch ko, nauuna na sakin at parang ako, na-left behind na ako.” With her contemporaries Kira Balinger, Elisse Joson, McCoy De Leon, and Ronnie Alonte already getting acting assignments and brand endorsements, and eventually rising into prominence, she felt like the wait since she joined Star Magic in 2014 had already been a lifetime.

Jane admits to keeping an eye out for opportunities outside of her mother studio—and even her motherland—before. At one point, she toyed with the idea of trying it out as an actress in Korea—an easy sell, given her devotion to such groups as BTS—and also contemplated on auditioning for TV and movie roles in streaming services elsewhere.

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This thirst and fire, as it turns out, comes from a place deeper than personal ambition. “Ako yung padre de pamilya and youngest pa na anak,” Jane explains, citing her new normal to be the result of major changes at home. She brings up her father, who passed on three years ago but inspires her every day. “Ang dami kong natutunan nung nawala siya. I needed to be strong and tough, lalo na ngayon na ako na ang breadwinner in the family.”


Faith and spirituality have helped her navigate through her life's realities. “I am a Christian,” she exclaims. “Ever since I was a kid, I was active in church. I would read the Bible and get wisdom and inspiration from it. Itong pagsali ko sa show biz, pinag-pray ko ito kay God.”

She admits that while she prayed for a breakthrough in what felt like a dormant career, she does not ask for specific projects or dream roles. “Ako naman, I just pray to God na sana magka big break ako and that’s it. I trust Him, eh. Like yung patience ko hinabaan ko, at nagtiwala lang.”

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One such answered prayer in her life and work came in mid-2018, when the chance to appear on ABS-CBN’s primetime block came via Halik. It was for a supporting role but actually came with so much more: the chance to work with and align herself with a cast of powerhouse performers, successful TV ratings and social media hype, a sense of ownership, on-the-job wisdom, and a whole lot of leverage for bigger things to come.

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The time she was taping Halik this summer was also the same time the hunt for a new Darna was announced. It was unmissable: The producers extended the audition even to the general public, making physically fit, Filipino-fluent females between 20 to 26 years old and least 5’5” in height eligible to try. The faith-filled breadwinner didn’t think twice about giving it a shot. 

“I lined up for the public audition, as in may pila talaga. Tapos later on, Direk (Jerrold Tarog) asked me kung bakit ako nag public audition kung meron namang audition para sa mga talents,” she shares, smiling at her own determination. “So nag-double yung audition ko pero sulit naman.”


What she didn’t pray for exactly, she acted out with instinct—enough to ace at least three rounds of auditions. “I told myself that I will give it my best and that’s it,” she recounts, tracing back to how her final contact with the producers and director turned out to be her induction to the coveted role. “Pero sobrang unexpected na nakuha ko yung role. I am happy naman na meron silang nakitang potential sa akin.”


A state of grace, it seems, is the best kind of glow-up, but Jane is not about to rest on divine providence alone. For one, she has been advised to gain weight for the physically challenging role ahead. Her calendar is booked month after month for physical training of every sort: toning, shredding, stunts, muay thai, choreography, and even more martial arts. “I need to train but I also really need to be careful, especially with my body and health as a whole. My safety is my number one priority,” she says.

As the weeks roll by, she has been enjoying exposure on talk shows and entertainment sites. A review of her network’s holiday station ID reveals ample airtime. Social media, too, has been kind—the 2019 ABS-CBN Ball and Halloween costume reposts have been plenty and the Darna fan art encouraging.

Show biz luminaries, Darna alumnae included, have expressed their well wishes upon hearing about her big break. Some have taken to Instagram to congratulate and greet her. Others have already dispensed advice particularly about safety during training and to take care of the hallowed character with which she has been bestowed. All of a sudden, she lives in and works from the sidelines no more—a far cry from the self-confessed simple, ukay-scouring girl she once was and a leap from her years in the crowd playing support.


Perhaps people will say that Jane de Leon’s story is one of a blessing that just fell on her lap. But it isn’t so much about that as it is about the combined power of fate and faith.

Of all the praises and congratulations she has been receiving in her new life, it’s the support of family that has proven to her most important source of strength. “Lagi lang akong ini-encourage ni Mama to just trust God. And yung mga kapatid ko, super sinu-suportahan nila ako. Lalo na kapag napapagod ako, sinasabi nila na wag akong sumuko—magpahinga pero wag susuko.”  

Perhaps people will say that Jane de Leon’s story is one of a blessing that just fell on her lap. But it isn’t so much about that as it is about the combined power of fate and faith. “Ibinigay sa akin ito kaya kailangan ko sya ingatan. I trust His plan.”

Produced by Yanna Lopez

Photographed by Patrick Diokno

Art Direction by Bacs Arcebal

Fashion Direction by Steph Sison

Styling by Danae Dipon

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Makeup by Effie Go

Hair by RJ de la Cruz

Nails by Joan Quimio of Nails and Glamour

Words by Owen Maddela

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