It has been 13 years since Julie Anne San Jose officially joined show business.
From trying out kiddie pageants in variety shows such as Eat Bulaga! and Magandang Tanghali Bayan when she was a kid, Julie Anne used her singing talent to enter showbiz via a reality competition called Popstar Kids.
Aired in GMA-7's defunct sister channel, QTV-11, Popstar Kids was the kiddie version of the GMA-7 singing competition Pinoy Pop Superstar, aired from 2005 to 2007.
Julie Anne was a grand finalist of Popstar Kids's first season, along with Rita Daniela, who emerged as the big winner of the competition.
The three other grand finalists during their season were Vanessa Rangadhol, Renzo Almario, and Pocholo Bismonte.
Even though Julie Anne did not win Popstar Kids, she was able to make a name for herself for her singing prowess. The Kapuso singer has been dubbed by GMA-7 as "Asia's Pop Sweetheart."
In this exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), Julie Anne looks back on her humble beginnings as a finalist of Popstar Kids.
Julie Anne was already turning 12 years old when she joined Popstar Kids.
This almost led to her disqualification from the competition.
She recalls, "I was 12, hindi na ako masyadong kid noon, e. Kumbaga nasa ano na, muntik na nga akong ma-disqualify noon kasi parang 7 to 11 lang yun, tapos 11 ako that time when I first joined.
"But I got a callback when I was 12. And noong pa-12 na ako, before ako mag-12, at saka ako sumali. Pa-12 pa lang ako noon, so technically, 12 years old ako noon."
Joining Popstar Kids was not something Julie Anne planned to do.
She says, "Yeah, sobrang unexpected lang kasi that time, parang magmo-mall lang ata kami ni mama noong nag-audition ako.
"That was ano, ha, I can still remember, after yun ng SOP, di ba, may satellite sila? Like sa studio tapos may satellite area sila.
"So that time, nasa SM Fairview sila, so after noong SOP, may pa-audition ng Popstar Kids.
"Nagmo-mall lang kami noon ni Mama, 'Oh, sige, try natin.'"
The singer can still recall vividly what happened during her audition.
"Naalala ko noon, pang-number 30 ako. So, luckily, nakakuha ako ng form, ganyan ganyan.
"Sobrang unexpected lang, tapos tamang tama, may Photoline sa tapat, kailangan ng 1x1 picture, application form, first na kinanta ko was 'The Voice Within' by Christina Aguilera.
"Tapos, e, di nakapasa ako ng auditions, then I got a call slip, tapos nagtuluy-tuloy na yung screenings.
"Ang QTV pa noon, sa may Norbertina, hindi dito ang QTV noon, basta nasa kabilang building pa yun."
"Hanggang sa nagtuluy-tuloy yung screenings, tapos everytime nagsi-screening, nagkakasakit ako palagi. I always got sick, I was always sick like kung hindi ako inuubo, sinisipon ako or like nahihilo ako, nagsusuka ako, ganyan ganyan.
"Tapos nakapasok ako ng parang Top...basta top something, e, mga ilang kids din kami doon."
Julie Anne was one of the lucky Popstar Kids auditionees who had the chance to compete in the contest proper that was aired on television.
Back then, the competition format of Popstar Kids was similiar to Pinoy Pop Superstar: three hopefuls will compete against each other, then whoever wins the competition will sing again to compete with a defending champion.
If a defending winner is able to compete and win for four weeks, he or she will enter the grand finals.
Julie Anne remembers competing against Rita Daniela, who was the defending champion at the time.
"Hanggang sa dumaan sa point na nakasama ako sa top three na lalaban kay Rita, that time kasi kailangan ng tatlong contestants na lalaban sa defending winner. Si Rita yung defending champion no'n.
"Yung laban na yun, parang fifth week yata, kasi you have to complete four weeks para makasama ka sa grand finals, and you're considered an undefeated champion kapag naka-eight weeks ka, pero pasok ka na sa grand finals noon kahit nakapasok ka na ng fifth week.
"So you need like four or five weeks yata para makapasok ka ng grand finals. E, tamang tama, si Rita, naka-apat na siya.
"Ako yung lumaban sa kanya, ako yung nanalo doon sa tatlo, pero hindi ko siya natalo. Si Rita yung nanalo.
"Si Rita yung nanalo, so I didn't make it, which is totally okay with me kasi trial lang naman yun ganyan. School ulit ako."
A year after Julie Anne lost to Rita, she got another callback to join the contest again.
"After a year, I got a callback. Si Pocholo yung contender before ako yung makapasok ng Popstar Kids ulit. He completed eight weeks which means kailangan ng bagong defending champion.
"So may three kids na kailangang maglaban-laban para magkaroon ng champion ulit. So doon sa tatlong bata na yun, ako yung nanalo. So I was the fifth finalist, fifth contender para makapasok sa grand finals.
"Nagtuluy-tuloy siya, nakumpleto ko yung eight weeks. So kaming lima, si Rita, Pocholo, Renzo, Vanessa, ako."
Julie Anne was the fifth contender in the grand finals. However, she lost to Rita Daniela, who was hailed the grand winner of their season.
Still, Julie Anne remained positive and happy with the outcome of their batch.
Julie Anne recalls, "Siyempre nagkasakit ulit ako noong grand finals, I didn't win. It was Rita who won the contest and I was happy for her.
"It was a healthy competition. Ako kasi yung pinakamatanda sa kanila. So ako yung referee, ako lahat, ate ate.
"I was happy for Rita and for everyone else. I thought we did a great job, isa lang talaga yung winner.
"Tapos yung ano namin, yung team namin, kumbaga parang we established a relationship also. It was a kind of friendship na hindi basta basta, na hindi 'okay, hindi na tayo friends after.'"
Even though Julie Anne did not win Popstar Kids, she was still able to build a career in showbiz.
"Tuluy-tuloy siya, it didn't mean after nung contest, wala na, okay na tayo, kanya kanya tayo. It wasn't like that.
"And kasi medyo matagal-tagal din kaming nagkakasama, e, tapos parang we got an offer na mag-sign under GMA, so si Sir Danny Tan ang co-manager namin.
"Tapos we decided to create a group which was Sugarpop. Ms. Jaya was one of the pioneers also kung bakit nabuo ang Sugarpop. Yeah, Ms. Jaya, Geleen Eugenio, Sir Danny Tan, silang tatlo. And yan, sila Ms. D. [Darling de Jesus-Bodegon].
"Tapos hanggang sa yan, Sugarpop ganyan ganyan, promotions, and then we became a mainstay of SOP. It was really, really fun."
Aside from being part of SOP, Sugarpop was also able to release a studio album.
However, in 2009, the group was disbanded at the same time when SOP was taken off the air.
"We got disbanded kasi nagkakaroon na ng awkward—nasa awkward stage na kami, e. Puberty kasi, so yung mga boys, nagbibinata na, nagbabago na mga boses. So sayang, it was a phase.
"But you know, I'm just happy for everyone kung ano yung mga ganap nila now. Si Rita palagi ko siyang kasama, sa Studio 7, palagi ko siyang nakikita sa GMA.
"Si Renzo, Pocholo, Vanessa though, we haven’t seen each other since… when was the last time I saw them, parang last year ata. Last year, last year ko pa ata sila nakita. Pero kasi may group chat naman kami."
Renzo, who is now known as vlogger Enzo Almario, tried his luck in Idol Philippines.
Julie Anne says about this, "I'm so proud of Renzo, I'm just really happy for him kasi aside from that, from one of his decisions in life, he's also decided to continue singing and you know, sharing his voice sa madla.
"And isa siya talaga sa mga alam mo yun, na alam ko na proud ako. I'm just proud of him as a friend.
"At saka yung connection naman namin, hindi naman nawawala. Palagi kaming nagcha-chat, yung group chat, 'O, kelan ba tayo magkikita?' ganyan ganyan. Nakakatawa lang, kasi mga dalaga na, e."
When Julie Anne was still part of Sugarpop, she got her big break when she was tapped to sing Dyesebel's theme song, "Aking Mundo," in 2008.
"Yeah, that was one of my biggest breaks din, I'm just really thankful kasi ako yung nabigyan ng... napili ako, isa ako sa mga napili ng GMA na bigyan ng opportunity na ganito."
When Sugarpop was disbanded, Julie Anne thought of actually quitting showbiz.
She admits, "That time, parang sabi ko, magku-quit na ba ako? Kasi nga, wala ng Sugarpop. Wala ng Sugarpop noon.
"So sabi ko, saan na ba ako pupunta niyan. And you know, I was ready, I was ready to quit and just focus on school.
"But you know, this whole thing, this whole showbiz thing, the whole industry thing. It keeps coming back to me every single time.
"Kapag feeling ko malapit na akong mag-quit, ayoko na, ganyan ganyan, it always keeps, it always comes back. Kumbaga parang dito talaga ako nili-lead ni Lord, dito talaga ako nili-lead ni Lord.
"Sinundan ko siya, sinundan ko yung light, sinundan ko yung gusto ni Lord na mangyari. At saka ilang beses kong pinag-pray ito. Sign ba ito or whatever."
Thirteen years after Popstar Kids, Julie Anne is still active in showbiz.
She has already done various albums, concerts, and teleseryes.
Julie Anne is currently part of Studio 7, and she recently concluded her concert titled Julie Sings The Divas.
"I guess siguro ang na-realize ko, dito talaga ako nili-lead ni Lord I guess. And you know, He knows that I'm passionate, like I have been wanting to sing, I've always wanted to perform for other people.
"Kaya di ba, sinabi ko kanina na parang pinanganak siguro ako sa mundong ito para kumanta kasi yun yung gusto ni Lord para sa akin.
"Ayun, everything happens for a reason, and that reason is to sing and let my voice be heard."
Julie Anne is still a proud Kapuso up to this day, and has never thought of transferring to other networks.
She reasons out, "I grew up here in GMA and malaki yung utang na loob ko talaga sa GMA kasi bata pa lang ako nandito na ako.
"Parang second home ko na yata ito, yung buong corners ng GMA, kabisado ko na, ultimo yung floors, ceilings. Hahaha! Simula noong nag-inauguration yung GMA annex, nandoon din ako.
"I'm just very very grateful to GMA and thankful for them for trusting me also, and giving me different opportunities.
"At saka in return, of course, I do my best to fulfill my job and at the same time do what I love to do."