MANHATTAN, New York - A former comedienne and supermodel became the first Filipina Carnival Queen in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
After producing the successful and critically-acclaimed 2009 independent movie “Baseco Bakal Boys”, a story of Filipino children scavengers, former Philippine television comedienne Bessie Badilla is now getting her newest independent movie ready for the international film festival.
“It’s about me. It’s actually about the first Filipina carnival queen. How it was very difficult for me to penetrate the all-Brazilian festival,” said Badilla, the lead star of “Dance of my life”.
“Dance of my life” is a 77-minute documentary about how Badilla, a 50-year-old single mom from the suburbs of Connecticut turned into a carnival queen, thousands of miles away in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Badilla was in Sao Paolo, Brazil for a friend's wedding and reception when she was spotted by carnival organizers.
"I was dancing like a mad woman and one of the carnival ambassadors, he just came up to me and said 'You will be the next carnival queen.' And then I said, ok, then I started dancing crazy again. I didn't think he was serious,” Badilla said.
Badilla said in Brazil, when one says yes, that means you've just committed yourself to it.
Badilla trained hard to be the star of carnival.
"I had 6 months to lose weight, get in shape. 25 pounds I had to lose, learn Samba and I've to learn Portuguese. And you know what? For me, it was all worth it, and I'll do it again,” she said.
Event designer Jerry Sibal said Badilla made her kababayans (countrymen) proud.
“She made the Filipino very, very proud. I mean for a none-Brazilian to be a carnival queen that's amazing. That's a milestone. That's a great achievement,” said Sibal.
“Dance of my life” is also Badilla's life story from a humble Tondo girl to haute-couture runway queen. Badilla is known as the first Asian model of Balenciaga in Paris. She is one of the first supermodels of the Philippines in the late 70s and 80s.
The film is directed by award-winning writer and director Lyca Benitez-Brown.
"It's going to be presented in the Philippines in conjunction with the Brazilian embassy so were very happy about that,” Benitez-Brown said.
Friends who have seen its private screening have only but praises to Benitez's masterpiece.
"It was so spectacular. It was so colorful and I like the costumes," said fashion icon Boots Babushka.
"I laughed, I cried. It really was a revealing and deeply personal look into Bessie's life,” said actor Paolo Montalban.
“It’s actually a laudable film and I hope they'll be able to garner good reviews,” Badilla’ friend, Edwin Josue, said.
“Dance of my life” would premier in film festivals around the world later this year, including in Manila in December. Balitang America