The Filipino Hollywood Mafia

Filipino Abroad: Filipino Hollywood Mafia

By Excel V. Dyquiangco 

Last year, Illustrado reported on the adobo and sticky rice-loving group in known in Hollywood. Known as the Filipino Hollywood Mafia, they have made Filipino talent shine in Tinsel town. Excel V. Dyquiangco introduces us to two of its additional members.

It is no longer a surprise that more and more Pinoys are establishing a name for themselves in Hollywood. With some Pinoys taking to the limelight and others in the background, the Filipino presence is fast becoming the norm.

 Filipino Abroad: Filipino Hollywood Mafia

The ever-growing list now includes Filipino-Mexican Jessica Sanchez who finished 1st runner-up in the American Idol competition, Matthew Libatique, Black Swan cinematographer and Dean Devlin, screenwriter and producer of Independence Day and Godzilla.

“It brings us much joy to see Filipino talent given global recognition; truly Pinoy pride!” says freelance make-up artist Paula “Au” Mauricio who now shuttles between Los Angeles and Manila. “A lot of the globally known designers, producers, actors, singers are friends of ours, and we are privileged to know their humble beginnings. It is just heart-warming to see their works flourish.”

 Filipino Abroad: Filipino Hollywood Mafia

Mauricio, together with her husband freelance fashion photographer Maurice, are members of the Filipino Hollywood Mafia (FHM), group composed of Pinoys working in the television, film and the fashion industry—basically those who work the entertainment scene.

Filipino Abroad: Filipino Hollywood Mafia“It is a group that promotes awareness of the Filipino talent in the Hollywood scene,” says Au. “For FHM specifically, since it has a Facebook Group, it allows members to share their recent works, accomplishments, gigs, movies, job opportunities, among others.  It really keeps us connected.” Mau adds that it was their friends, Emmy award-winning producer Michael Carandang (whom Illustrado featured in 2011), actor and producer Giselle Tongi-Walters and news reporter and writer Yong Chavez who recommended them to be part of the group. “Having the opportunity to shoot both in Los Angeles and in Manila is awesome!” she says. “Maurice and I have both had a lot of enjoyable work.”

Pinoy Bayanihan at Work

In October 2009, Mau was able to hold an exhibit of his work at LA Fashion Week, dubbed as the “Passion Revealed Show”. The exhibit was also featured in Balitang America. His work can has also been featured in various advertisement campaigns and magazines.  One of Mau’s more notable campaigns was one for French cosmetic giant, Sephora.

Au, meanwhile, has done make-up for America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) Cycle 18 British Invasion winner Sophie Sumner.  She has also headed the hair and make-up creative team of a fashion show featuring Furne One in LA Fashion week. It was no small task considering that she had to manage 30 make-up artists, 10 hairstylists, 60 models and 20 dancers.

 Filipino Abroad: Filipino Hollywood Mafia

“Showing our bayanihan spirit is very inspiring,” she says. “It helps promote awareness that there are a lot of talented and creative Filipinos in the industry.  I love that I no longer hear ‘Where’s the Philippines or what are Filipinos?’ from foreigners.”

Because of such achievements in the industry, FHM loves to give back to the community and share our talents with the whole world. “The more that we individually become successful in our chosen field and we collaborate with other Pinoys, the higher the chances of increasing Pinoy Pride globally!” says Au. “If we have an opportunity and an option to choose the people we work with, why not find Filipino talent?  For example, America’s Next Top Model All Stars Allison Harvard recently modeled and endorsed BenchTM in the Philippines. Through the recommendation and trust of Michael Carandang, we were fortunate to work and spend a lot of time with her while she was in the Philippines. We also did an advertisement campaign for G Fine Body Art in Los Angeles with Allison as the model.  With all of Allison’s international followers and fans, we are proud to be getting compliments all over the world because of the work we’ve done with her.”

Filipino Abroad: Filipino Hollywood MafiaGetting Back to the Race

And what about all those stories that we hear about race?

“I guess we just have to live with racial indifference–I don’t want to use discrimination as it feels negative–as we see it on the news not only in the US, but also all over the world,” says Mau. “But with a lot of talents emerging from different parts of the world, it just makes you wonder if there is such [a thing as] an inferior race.  With FHM, we are reminded that we are Filipinos in American entertainment making a difference in our own fields, with the support of our fellow Filipinos in the industry.”

“In my opinion, it’s not so much race as the issue,” adds Au. “If you were born and raised in California, I think you have the same opportunity as everyone else.  There are so many successful Filipinos in different lines of work, not only in TV, film or fashion.  I think if you moved to the States after high school or college; that seems to be more challenging.  It’s difficult because you really start your network from zero.  I’ve experienced this and the feeling of “second class citizen” is really there.  You don’t have classmates or cousins or family friends from when you were young that are now doctors, lawyers, directors, managers, CEO’s and others.  In order to succeed, you always need to work an extra mile to be noticed — although this is a blessing in itself and since Filipinos work an extra mile all the time, we have every opportunity to shine.  What’s missing is sharing this with the world, to be globally recognized, which is bridged by groups like FHM and publications such as Illustrado!”

From MNL to LA and back

Mau and Au have recently opened a photo and make-up studio in Manila called Bottega Studio. “After living in the States for over twelve years, we recently moved back to Manila early this year. We are now bi-coastal, living both in Manila and Los Angeles. We still maintain clients in LA and we go back every 3-4 months for 3 weeks at a time.  As individuals, through our work, we aim to continue to bridge the Philippines to the international scene.”

Hollywood, and the movies that have entertained us for generations, has been called America’s greatest export to the world. And with the FHM growing in number and in recognition, is Pinoy talent on its way to becoming one of the Philippines’ greatest exports to Hollywood?