StarStruck 2019 Ultimate Survivors Kim de Leon and Shayne Sava both come from humble backgrounds—and even the beginnings of their journey to stardom are the same.
Kim is a 19-year-old boy from Batangas who first tried his luck with commercials. He faced several rejections and callbacks before getting a break, but managed to star alongside ABS-CBN actor Joshua Garcia in one ad for a facial cleanser.
Shayne is a 17-year-old student from Rizal who had no background in showbiz, except for one kiddie talent contest sponsored by a big shopping mall when she was just six years old.
In 2019, they joined other hopefuls in taking on the challenge of Dreaming Believing Surviving that is the call of StarStruck.
On the night of September 15, 2019, after a long and difficult series of acting tests and challenges—Kim and Shayne emerged the Ultimate Survivors.
Six months after their win, the two are slowly seeing the fulfillment of their dreams as GMA-7 grooms them to become its two new promising stars.
This means participating in workshops, guest appearances, and photo shoots.
Coming in one afternoon from a workshop, Kim and Shayne go straight to Summit Studio in Pasig to get glammed up for the Main Attraction feature of PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal).
This is their first cover shoot as StarStruck Ultimate Survivors.
After a three-hour photo-and-video shoot, the two new stars wrap up their night with a 45-minute interview with PEP.ph, where they look back on their journey to today.
THE START FOR KIM
From the very start, it is Kim whose actions seemed destined to take him to the world of stars.
As early as his elementary days, Kim was honing his craft through theater arts in school.
He recalls, "Nagsimula iyong desire ko sa pag-aartista sa school kasi active ako sa extra-curricular activities. So, may mga kanta, sayaw, acting, stage play.
"'Tapos may nagsasabi sa akin na puwede akong maging artista. So, ako naman, asa-asa ako, pinangarap kong mag-artista hanggang sa na-realize ko na mahirap pala."
At 14 years old, Kim tried his luck as a talent for TV shows, and later, for TV commercials.
Along the way, he had to endure rejections that, if downright disappointing, toughened him up.
Kim says, "Nag-start akong mag-extra noon, 14 ako. Matagal, walang big break na pumapasok sa akin, hanggang sa nag-casting ako sa commercials.
"Matagal din bago ako na-approve, bago ko nakuha iyong first commercial ko. Kaya parang medyo nawalan ako ng pag-asa noon.
"Fourteen ako nag-start mag-casting, 'tapos almost one year, wala akong commercial, pero casting ako nang casting. Parati akong rejected."
Years later, in January of 2017, Kim gave his dreams another try.
"Nag-try lang ako kasi laging tumatawag iyong caster. Sabi ko, pagbibigyan ko lang, nakakahiya naman kung hindi.
"Pagpunta ko, approved daw ako. Iyong pangalawang casting ko, approved ulit, kaya natuwa ako. Sabi ko, itutuloy ko na pala ito."
It was at this point that Kim left his hometown Balayan in Batangas, to pursue his dreams in Manila.
One of Kim's commercials was for a computer science school, which is also how he was able to wrangle a scholarship that allowed him to continue his studies.
"Commercial model ako habang nag-aaral. 'Tapos kakalipat ko lang noon sa Makati ng school for college.
"Kaya rin ako nakapag-college gawa ng nagka-commercial ako. Nag-request ako ng scholarship, hindi kasama sa contract pero nag-request ako para malapit na iyong mga casting, kasi marami, e."
THE BEGINNINGS FOR SHAYNE
Shayne has been dreaming of becoming an actress since she was a kid.
She was the kind who would, on her own, re-enact scenes from teleseryes.
"Bata pa po ako, sa CR po, ginagaya ko po iyong mga nasa teleserye 'tapos umiiyak-iyak ako kunyari, as in ginagaya ko talaga sila!"
But Shayne felt like show business was a dream so big, it couldn't possibly come true.
"Gusto ko po talagang makita sa TV, gusto ko pong maging artista, pero alam niyo po iyong thought na hanggang pangarap lang, parang hindi niyo po kayang abutin? Parang ganun po iyong nasa isip ko.
"Kasi sabi ko, mahirap pong makapasok sa mundo ng showbiz, so, hindi ko na siya masyadong inisip pero pangarap ko po talaga siya. Masyado siyang mataas sa akin, iyong pangarap ko na iyon, kaya feeling ko, hindi ko siya maaabot."
Shayne got her first taste of exposure when, at six years old, she won a kiddie modelling competition sponsored by a big shopping mall.
However, Shayne’s mother asked her to focus on her studies.
Shayne obeyed, and shifted her dreams to becoming a doctor or a lawyer.
Still, the desire to perform stayed inside her.
"Kapag wala akong ginagawa, nagpe-play po ako ng instruments, guitar po or ukelele, or gumagawa po ako ng poem or kanta."
BELIEVING THEY CAN
Then came the chance for Kim and Shayne to join StarStruck 2019.
Established in 2003, StarStruck is GMA-7’s reality-based artista search that produced, among others: Jennylyn Mercado, Mark Herras, Yasmien Kurdi, Cristine Reyes, Kris Bernal, Arci Munoz, Aljur Abrenica, Paulo Avelino, Klea Pineda, and Migo Adecer.
After a hiatus, StarStruck opened its doors again in late 2018, holding a nationwide audition for a new batch of artista hopefuls.
Kim and Shayne were two of those hopefuls.
For Kim, however, StarStruck was not originally part of his plans.
He recalls, "Actually, iyong pag-audition ko sa StarStruck, isinama lang ako ng agent ko doon sa commercial, e. Parang lima kami from the agency 'tapos sabi niya mag-StarStruck daw ako."
During this time, Kim had already stopped schooling because of financial struggles. He did not get a callback from StarStruck right away.
He continues, "Tuloy pa rin iyong commercials pero after kong mag-audition sa StarStruck, which is hindi ko naman ine-expect na matatanggap ako. Sabi ko noon, pagkatapos ko sa pag-aaral, ano nang gagawin ko?
"Kasi umuwi na ako ng Batangas noon, e. Wala pang callback from StarStruck, kaya sabi ko, wala na akong gagawin, ano kayang plano ko sa buhay? ‘Tapos midnight noon, tumawag iyong coordinator ng StarStruck, pinapapunta na ako."
As early as the audition process, Kim and Shayne faced a number of struggles, including lack of funds, that taught them there is no easy way to enter showbiz.
But Kim and Shayne plodded on.
Their determination to finish the contest led them both to the final audition. Here, StarStruck council members Heart Evangelista, Jose Manalo, and Cherie Gil would decide on the contestants making it to the Final 14.
The process of the final audition went this way: In every episode, out of the Top 22 hopefuls, three to four finalists would be called to face the council. This meant only six to seven hopefuls would know their fate on a Friday taping day.
Even then, all 22 hopefuls had to attend each taping day because nobody knew when it would be his or her turn to face the council.
SHAYNE'S MONEY PROBLEMS
Truthfully, Shayne kept wishing to be called first. Not just because she wanted to know what awaited her as soon as possible, but because she and her grandmother were already experiencing money problems.
Every taping day, they had to travel from Binangonan, Rizal, to the GMA Network Center in Quezon City.
She narrates: "Ang [istorya] po kasi niyan, nag-uuwian po kami. 'Tapos iyong mama ko po, wala naman po siyang trabaho. 'Tapos iyong stepfather ko naman, may trabaho po siya, pero nakakahiya po akong manghingi dahil hindi ko naman po siya tunay na tatay.
"'Tapos iyong tatay ko naman po, may trabaho naman po siya pero ang dami niya po kasing anak din na sinusuportahan.
"So ayon po, nanghihiram na lang po kami ng pera para po pang-uwian po namin kasi magkano po ang pamasahe namin palagi."
Clearly, going back to GMA-7 every week was becoming an expensive exercise for her and her lola.
"Mas malaki iyong gastos kapag pabalik-balik po kayo. So, kapag natawag ka na for Top 14, alam niyo na po na baka puwede muna akong mag-stay kahit saan malapit sa GMA para hindi hassle. Kapag Top 22 po kasi, wala pang kasiguraduhan."
As fate would have it, Shayne was part of the last batch to be called.
But, the long wait was worth it: she made it to the Final 14!
At this point, Shayne says she was quite happy with where she'd gotten in the competition.
She says, "Sabi ko noong Top 22, parang mapasok lang ako ng Top 14, okay na ako kahit di ako manalo. Kasi exposure na rin po iyon kapag mapasok ka sa Top 14, e.
"Pero siguro po, will po talaga ni God, kung para po sa iyo, para po talaga sa iyo. Para po sa akin, may tamang timing sa lahat ng bagay. May reason behind sa lahat ng bagay.
"Ipinagpapasalamat ko po lahat kay God, lahat ng blessings na ibinibigay niya sa akin."
KIM'S PROBLEMS WITH BEING ALONE ALL THE TIME
Kim had his own share of problems: he was almost always by himself.
He narrates, "Mag-isa lang ako noon, e. Kasi di ba, lumuwas ako? Family ko, hindi ko kasama, nakikitira lang ako sa agent ko sa commercial na hindi rin naman ako masyadong nasamahan sa GMA, sa StarStruck. So, ako lang mag-isa palagi.
"Nakikita ko iyong ibang mga kasama ko, may mga kasama sila, or may mga assistant or may family na kasama kapag pauwi na. Ako lang talaga mag-isa, papunta pauwi, medyo malayo pa ako.
"'Tapos para mas makatipid ako, kapag iyong hassle na sa oras, madalas, nag-a-Angkas ako para mas mura din, mas mabilis."
But Kim ignored these problems and stayed focused on his dream.
"Hindi ko naman masyadong napansin iyon na nag-i-struggle na rin ako kasi gusto ko rin, e."
He resumes, "Thankful ako sa StarStruck, kasi ngayon, at least, mas malapit na ako kasi meron na akong pambayad sa rent na malapit. Worth it lahat ng struggles."
TEST OF SURVIVAL
After the final audition, Kim and Shayne successfully joined the Final 14.
They were getting closer to their goal of becoming StarStruck’s newest Ultimate Male and Female Survivors.
From there, they faced more acting tests and challenges, which got harder and harder every week and covered drama, romcom, comedy, and action.
During the competition, Kim was a consistent top performer, getting the top spot among the boys through seven of eleven acting challenges. He would also consistently place first in the audience votes.
Because of this, viewers thought Kim was a runaway winner.
This put even more pressure on Kim.
He realized this during his artista test with Barbie Forteza, where director LA Madrilejos required the hopefuls to cry at the end of the scene.
Kim could not meet Madrilejos’s expectations.
Kim explains, "Hindi ako lumuha noon, e, kailangang lumuha sa eksena. Sobrang na-stress ako noon, e. Kasi grabe, parang first time ko naka-ano ng comment na hindi boom.
"Kaya iyong sinasabi nila na ang galing-galing ko daw, parang wala lang sa akin, hindi! Every challenge, mas nape-pressure ako lalo. Pero doon, thankful ako kasi marami akong natutunan sa kanila.
"Doon ko napatunayan na sa pagkakamali mo, if you don't stress about it a lot, at saka kapag tumingin ka sa bright side, sa mga natutunan mo, okay naman."
Even then, Kim earned praises from the StarStruck council, especially Cherie Gil who said that if his tears won't fall in the scene, he should not force it.
By contrast, Shayne’s ranking in the competition was up and down.
There were times when she would be in the middle spot, or she would become part of the bottom group, despite getting good comments from the judges and mentors.
Shayne continued to give it her best, allowing her performance to slowly climb to the top.
One instance was when she was praised by director Gina Alajar in a drama challenge involving character actress and stage thespian Cherie Gil.
It was in that particular artista test where she felt tremendous pressure, because Cherie was one of the judges, and they had to act with her.
Shayne recalls, "Siyempre po, kailangang i-prove iyong sarili mo at saka Miss Cherie Gil din po iyon. Parang ang pangit naman po kapag Miss Cherie Gil yung ka-eksena niyo po 'tapos chaka yung acting. Parang kailangan niyo din po siyang mapantayan, kahit hindi po mapantayan, at least madikitan para hindi masabing chaka."
Shayne did not get the top spot for that exercise, but she still earned praises from her director and the judges.
“Noong narinig ko nga po iyong comment sa akin ni Miss Gina Alajar at saka po ng mga judges, sobrang nakakataba po ng puso.
"At saka nakakatuwa kasi hindi ko po akalain na kaya ko pong gawin iyon, another discovery ko po sa sarili ko na kaya ko palang umarte nang ganoon.
"Nag-start ka po sa wala 'tapos patuloy ka pong natututo, parang ganoon iyong feeling na nakaka-satisfy."
THE STARS HAVE ALIGNED
A week before the final judgment, on September 8, 2019, Kim and Shayne were announced as part of the Final Four.
Kim vied for the Ultimate Male Survivor title against Allen Ansay, while Shayne had Lexi Gonzales as her competitor for the title of Ultimate Female Survivor.
After 12 gruelling weeks of competition, StarStruck held its final judgment on September 15, 2019.
Kim and Shayne emerged as the new Ultimate Survivors.
Both of them admit they never expected to win StarStruck.
Shayne, for her part, was really expecting Lexi to win because, compared to her, Lexi already had an acting background.
Lexi was part of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic, the talent management arm of the Kapamilya network. but decided to audition for StarStruck after her contract with Star Magic expired.
Shayne remembers the winning moment with a smile.
She says, "E, di ba po, ina-announce na? Hindi po ako nag-e-expect, e. Sabi ko, kahit manalo o matalo, basta ako, ginawa ko po iyong best ko at saka nagdadasal po ako before noon."
She left her fate to the fates.
"Sabi ko po, kung para talaga ito sa akin, ibibigay sa akin. Pero hindi po talaga ako nag-expect.
"At the back of my mind, siyempre po, iwini-wish ko, pero hindi po talaga ako nag-expect na ako iyong mananalo!
"Kaya po nagulat po talaga ako na ako iyong tinawag kasi si Lexi po, ready na po talaga siya, as in madami na po siyang experience. Magaling din po talaga siya.
"Ako po, hindi po talaga ako nag-expect kaya nagulat po ako. Kaya super blessed and thankful din po ako kay God kasi ibinigay niya po sa akin."
The same goes for Kim, who, despite always getting the top spot in the competition, did not close his mind to the possible twists ahead.
He says, "Ako nga, hindi ko ine-expect na makapasok ako, manalo pa kaya?
"Kahit ganun, kahit feeling ko okay naman iyong naging performances ko all throughout the contest, maraming puwedeng mangyari, maraming puwedeng twist na mangyari.
"Magaling din si Allen [Ansay]. Pero I was really praying for it noong nasa stage na and kasi marami ding ipinagdadasal na manalo ako, maraming sumusuporta, maraming nag-e-expect.
"Pero iyon iyong mahirap na part, e. Iyong sobrang daming expectations kasi paano kung hindi? Grabe. Grabe talaga, as in kabang-kaba ako noon. Wooh!"
As part of their prize, Kim and Shayne each received PHP1 million in cash, a GMA-7 management contract worth PHP5 million, and a house and lot.
What the future holds is slowly becoming certain for these two new GMA-7 stars.
Just a few weeks after StarStruck 2019’s final judgment, Shayne and Kim, with Lexi and Allen, top-billed a Magpakailanman episode featuring their life stories.
Kim and Shayne are also regular performers in All-Out Sundays, the latest Kapuso noontime variety show.
Kim is the leader of the All-Out Sundays’ boy group called All-Out QTs. He also plays a major role in the noontime show's comedy skit, "Tapsikret," where he is paired with StarStruck 2019 First Princess Lexi Gonzales.
Now exclusive contract stars of GMA-7, Kim and Shayne both agree that their lives have taken a 180-degree turn.
CHANGES IN SHAYNE'S LIFE
Shayne talks about gaining new confidence.
"In terms po sa sarili, mas na-build up po iyong confidence kasi po, siyempre, iyon po iyong kailangan niyo talaga lalo na kapag magpe-perform ka. Nakapag-build up po ako ng confidence sa sarili ko, pinagkatiwalaan ko rin po iyong sarili ko, at saka mas lalo ko pong minahal iyong sarili ko.
She also talks about having less family time.
"When it comes po sa family, may mga times po na hindi ako nakakasama sa mga family gathering."
One instance was during New Year's Eve, when she attended the GMA New Year Countdown.
Shayne continues, "Pero after naman po ng countdown, umuwi din po ako. Pero maliit na bagay lang naman po iyon for me, kasi ngayon pa na parang naibibigay ko na iyong gusto nila, natutulungan ko na po sila when it comes sa financial problems.
"So nakakataba din po ng puso kasi iyong ginagawa ko po ngayon, para din po sa kanila."
CHANGES IN KIM'S LIFE
Kim talks about helping pay his family's debts.
He has also gotten back their house in Batangas, which was a gift from his late grandfather.
"Ang pinaka-grateful na pagbabago, iyong mga utang ng family ko, wala na, kasi binayaran ko na.
"And iyong bahay kasi namin sa Batangas, muntik nang maibenta, nakasangla pala iyon, hindi ko alam. Ang ginawa ko, tinubos ko na lang. Sayang kasi, e. Kasi bigay pa iyon ng lolo namin, 'tapos ipinagawa pa ng tatay ko dati."
And he talks about being an artista, at last.
"Thanks to StarStruck. Sobrang daming nabago. Ayan, artista na ako, basically, artista na ako. Noong nag-start iyong sunud-sunod na schedule, guesting, sabi ko, ito na pala iyon."
THE FINAL TEST
At present, Shayne is gearing up for her first teleserye.
Titled Legal Wives, Shayne will co-star with Alice Dixson, Cherie Gil, Megan Young, Bianca Umali, and Dennis Trillo. She will be paired with fellow StarStruck finalist Abdul Raman.
Previous reports also say that anyone who wins StarStruck might be part of GMA-7’s adaptation of Voltes V, but both Kim and Shayne do not have details on the project.
Kim, who is still waiting for his first teleserye assignment, says with a smile, "Actually, narinig ko po iyon habang nasa competition pa kami, and Voltes V ay malaki sa Philippines, sobrang sikat. Sana nga."
Winning StarStruck 2019 is just the beginning for Kim and Shayne’s showbiz careers.
As StarStruck always says to its ultimate survivors, their victory is just the beginning of one final test: the test of staying power.
It is now up to Kim and Shayne how they will survive that test, but they are off to a good start.
SHOOT PRODUCERS: James Patrick Anarcon, Rommel Llanes
PHOTOGRAPHER: Kyle Shih
COVER ILLUSTRATION: Arianne Braga
STYLIST: Ash Aquino
MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLIST: Ray Bien Maglonzo
VIDEO PRODUCERS: Jean Saturnino, Mart Francisco, Kim Gan, Vincent Mendez
VIDEO EDITOR: Marlo Adriatico
Special thanks to Yani Cardino of GMA Corporate Communications