CALIFORNIA - When Paulo Arabejo was growing up in Laguna, Philippines, he was like any other Filipino boy playing video games and even getting into fights at school. But he also liked playing dress-up.
Twenty-years later, Arabejo is now the Pinay plus size Barbie of New York City known as 'Jiggly Caliente', one of the most popular contestants to ever grace the catwalks of RuPaul's Drag Race.
"When I was a kid, I always wanted to play. I was like Miss Philippines always. I never expected it to be ganitong kalaki. Akala ko lang noong bata ako parang naglalaro lang; sa buhok ko akala ko babae ako. That's all I'd do when I was a kid. But now that I'm older and now my dreams kind of been realized," Caliente said.
Caliente moved to the US when she was 10. In 2012, at age 30, she made it onto the 4th season of RuPaul's Drag Race, a popular American show that features drag queens.
"I never thought this could be what it is now. When I auditioned for the show, parang tingnan lang natin 'kung kaya ko and kahit hindi ako nanalo, ang ganda pa rin ng nangyari sa akin," she said.
Caliente became a crowd favorite for her attitude, witty remarks and her round stature. She eventually finished in 6th place out of 12 contestants.
Over the years, RuPaul's Drag Race has produced a number of popular Filipino queens and Caliente believes their success comes from the Philippines, where several crossdressers have found showbiz success.
"There's a lot of queens in the Philippines. I'm a huge fan of Vice Ganda. I love her and Jon Lapuz and Bekimon. But Vice Ganda is my go to. I just love her and I think the platform they raised in the Philippines helps us over here. Nasa loob na natin 'yung kabonggahan," she said.
Her success on the drag race has opened the doors to TV and movies and she continues to tour the country for more drag shows, including the first-ever RuPaul's Drag Race Drag Con. But there is one destination the Queens New York based Drag queen wants to go to: her home land, a place she hasn't been to in five years.
"I just hope someday I can perform sa Pilipinas and do this there too. The thing is, in the Philippines you gotta sing and I can't for my life. I can only lip sync. I lip sync for a reason," she said.
Caliente admits her dream visit and concert in the Philippines would include none other than her favorite Kapamilya star, Vice Ganda.
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