10+ breakout stars of 2021, and why DonBelle lead the list

Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2021 09:37 PM | Updated as of Dec 29 2021 11:23 PM

10+ breakout stars of 2021
Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano (center) lead this year’s list of breakout stars for their unmatched achievements across TV, film, and music in 2021. 

MANILA — With consecutive hits across TV, film, and music in just a span of a year (less, even), and backed by a passionate fanbase that easily sways trends on social media, Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano have cemented their status as breakout talents of 2021.

Beyond that, their unparalleled achievements in the past year firmly place them as budding superstars — meriting their No. 1 ranking in this list of artists who either debuted to huge success, or finally became major stars after a long wait.

The screen couple, now dubbed the “New Gen Phenomenal Love Team,” was in fact a trending tandem even before they were launched via “He’s Into Her” in May. A record-breaking hit, the limited series earned a green light for a second season.

10+ breakout stars of 2021
Screen couple Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano. Courtesy of Metro.Style

But that wasn’t all for “DonBelle.” Separately and together, they ventured into music, with Mariano releasing her debut album “Daylight” in December. They capped their phenomenal year with “Love Is Color Blind,” their launching movie as a love team. Their popularity, both as individuals and as a pair, also made them emerging brand darlings with successive new endorsements.

Meteoric their rise may be, it came after years of waiting and hard work. Mariano has been acting for nearly a decade, dating back to her “Goin’ Bulilit” stint in 2012; while Pangilinan entered showbiz in 2016.

Joining DonBelle in this yearend list are acts, artists, and personalities who similarly made significant progress in their career this year, whether as an overnight sensation or, like the love team, after patiently waiting for their turn in the limelight.

The following are un-ranked, and listed in alphabetical order:

Actors | Film, television

10+ breakout stars of 2021
‘Love Beneath the Stars’ actors Adrian Lindayag and Keann Johnson. Clever Minds/Dreamscape Entertainment

Lindayag and Johnson technically came by their big break at the tail end of 2020 with “The Boy Foretold by the Stars,” but the year that followed saw them marking numerous milestones as actors. The Dolly Dulu film, for one, earned them nominations as best actor in this year’s Gawad Urian. With the film’s sequel “Love Beneath the Stars,” they also became first-time lead stars of a series. The screen partners were co-stars anew in “Marry Me, Marry You,” but this time not as romantic interests. For Johnson, the ABS-CBN teleserye was also his first.

Actress | Film, television, controversy

10+ breakout stars of 2021
AJ Raval appears in the 2021 erotic thriller ‘Taya.’ Viva Films

The daughter of action star Jeric Raval became one of Viva’s new movie darlings this year with successive lead — and decidedly sexy — roles in its VivaMax offerings. On top of those, she also joined the cast of the iconic “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano.” But what really brought Raval to public consciousness — for better or for worse — were back-to-back controversies involving showbiz couples: Aljur Abrenica and Kylie Padilla, who have since separated; and Diego Loyzaga and Barbie Imperial, who remain together. In both instances, Raval denied being a third party in the relationship.

Singer-songwriter | Viral, music

10+ breakout stars of 2021
Angela Ken signs her contract with ABS-CBN’s Star Magic in March. ABS-CBN

The singer-songwriter’s career leap is more of a transition — from social media to mainstream. Ken went viral on TikTok in late 2020 with a snippet of her original composition, “Ako Naman Muna,” which became a full-fledged hit when she released it under ABS-CBN’s Star Music in March, logging tens of millions of streams across platforms. In the past year, Ken went on to sign with Star Magic, became a part of The Squad Plus, released an original track for “Marry Me, Marry You,” and clinched her first acting project — the upcoming musical series “Lyric and Beat.”

P-pop groups | Music

10+ breakout stars of 2021
BGYO consists of Gelo, Akira, JL, Nate, and Mikki; while BINI is composed of Aiah, Colet, Maloi, Gwen, Stacey, Mikha, Jhoanna, and Sheena. Courtesy of Privé Alliance and Metro.Style

Launched in January and June, respectively, BGYO and BINI charted consecutive milestones in 2021. Aside from releasing their respective albums, which include international versions of their carrier singles, the sibling groups staged a joint concert and performed in Dubai. They also made waves internationally, with BGYO ranking atop worldwide charts for emerging artists like Pandora’s and Billboard’s. Among Filipino music fans, BGYO and BINI became instant social media darlings, going viral numerous times as they impressed with their talent and polish — the result of two years of formal training under ABS-CBN’s Star Hunt Academy.

Actress | Film, television

10+ breakout stars of 2021
Charlie Dizon appears in ‘My Sunset Girl.’ iWantTFC

Taking home a best actress trophy for “Fan Girl” at the close of 2020 meant a banner year would likely follow for Dizon, and it did. Aside from earning a Gawad Urian nomination for the film, Dizon continues to draw praise for her performance in the ongoing “Viral Scandal,” which marks her first lead role in a teleserye. Earlier in the year, she also starred as the title character in the limited series “My Sunset Girl,” also a first for Dizon.

Online seller, recording artist | Viral, music, television

10+ breakout stars of 2021
Madam Inutz appears in the music video for her Christmas single ‘Sangkap ng Pasko.’ YouTube: Daisy Lopez

Similar to TikTok star Angela Ken, Madam Inutz was launched to stardom by going viral. Her unique brand of online selling made Lopez an internet sensation, paving the way to her recording career, which was then put on pause as she seized another mainstream opportunity — becoming a “Pinoy Big Brother” housemate in its ongoing celebrity edition. Madam Inutz has proven popular among her housemates and viewers, having landed a spot in the reality series’ Final Five.

Rapper | Viral, music

10+ breakout stars of 2021
Rapper Ez Mil. Instagram: @ezekielmiller

The Filipino-American rapper had an explosive start to the year when his Wish Bus performance of his original track, “Panalo,” went viral online. The patriotic tune set off a flood opportunities for Ez Mil, who went on to sign with Virgin Music, stage a digital concert, and perform with fellow Filipino acts in 1MX Dubai just this month.

Singer-actress | Viral, music, television

10+ breakout stars of 2021
Singer-actress Gigi de Lana. ABS-CBN

Since her viral cover of “Bakit Nga Ba Mahal Kita” in June, de Lana has been ubiquitous. In just the latter part of the year, she released a single, staged a solo concert, and most remarkably, became a first-time lead star of a series, opposite no less than Gerald Anderson, in “Hello, Heart.” Overnight her success may seem, de Lana had been counting on her big break as early as 2016, when she first rose to fame as a Tawag ng Tanghalan contender. In 2020, she made her first steps as an actress after signing with Rise Artists Studio, and later joining the cast of “Four Sisters Before the Wedding.”

Singer-songwriter | Music, viral

10+ breakout stars of 2021
Singer-songwriter Zack Tabudlo. Island Records Philippines

The music genius behind “Binibini” has proven he is no one-hit wonder. After the viral success of the romantic tune, which topped Spotify’s list of most streamed songs in the country in 2021, Tabudlo followed up with a full-length debut album, “Episode,” spawning several more hits. In perhaps the most solid indications of his breakthrough year, Tabudlo was featured in New York’s Times Square and Rolling Stone. It’s also been a long wait for Tabudlo, who first rose to popularity as one the finalists of “The Voice Kids” in 2014.