When Thalia arrived in the Philippines in August 1996, themedia frenzy caused by the Mexican superstar's visit was surpassed only by PopeJohn Paul II's visit a year earlier in 1995.
The darling of the Filipino people invaded local televisionvia her Mexican telenovelas that made Thalia a household name. RPN-9 made akilling when it made the move to dub foreign shows into Tagalized programs thatsparked a revolution in the boob tube. Marimar pavedthe way for more foreign shows to capture the Philippine market.
On the downside, the Mexican telenovela craze also became a buttof jokes. Remember the badly dubbed episodes wherein the voice-overdidn't match the character's lines? Or the spoof on Sergio Santibañez with his chest hair peeking out of hisshirt?
Despite these shortcomings,Filipinos fell in love with the oppressed characters played by the sensualThalia in her telenovelas. But did you know that the sexy actress was actuallytomboyish while growing up? Thalia, whose real name is Adriana Thalia SodiMiranda, preferred playing sports with boys and being outdoors. She turnedfeminine when she enrolled in a dance school and took training in classical ballet.
Thalia grew up to become a popsinger for the group Timbiriche and she worked her way up from playing bitroles in soap operas to becoming the queen of telenovelas.
A producer named Valentin Pimstein approached Thaliasometime in the ‘90s and asked her to do a trilogy of soap operas with the leadcharacters all named Maria. The first one, Maria Mercedes, came out in1992 and immediately broke all ratings records. Two years later, Thalia did Marimar,and once again it topped TV ratings lists. The last installment, Mariala del Barrio, established her as an international superstar. From then on,Thalia's name became synonymous with Mexico in more than 120 countriesworldwide.
Here is PEP's refresher course on Thalia's most memorableMexicanovelas. Be forewarned though, there are spoilers ahead.
Maria Mercedes (1992). In the first installment of the famed "Maria" trilogy,Thalia performed with her sister, Laura Zapata, who was cast in the TVseries as Malvina del Olmo. Maria Mercedes is a professional street urchin andlottery ticket vendor who struggles to raise her ungrateful siblings. Abandonedby their mother, she and her siblings suffer from the neglect of their drunkardfather.
Maria Mercedes is spotted by Santiago del Olmo, a wealthyman who lives in a posh village in Mexico City. The dying man leaves his houseand fortune to the street urchin instead of giving his his materialisticsister-in-law, Malvina, an inheritance. Santiago concocts a plan to marry Maria but the younggirl falls in love with Malvina's son Jose Luis, who happens to beimpotent.
A marriage proposal, a grandiose wedding, a last will andtestament, and a conniving plan by a crazed Malvina are the elements that turn the lives of everyone in the del Olmo household upside down.
Marimar (1994). Who can forget the seaside beauty Marimar and her story ofsweet revenge? Marimar is a poor girl who lives by the sea with hergrandparents. When she is caught red-handed while trying to steal produce fromHacienda Ibañez, the young master Sergio Santibañez (Eduardo Capetillo) defendsMarimar. He is attracted to her sweet, innocent look despite her untidiness.
To spite his father Renato, his young stepmotherand ex-girlfriend Angelica, Sergio marries the "dirty girl from the beach." When heleaves to earn money for the two of them, Angelica frames Marimar and tells thepolice that she stole a bracelet from her. While Marimar serves time in jail,Angelica orders a servant to burn down Marimar's seaside hut, killing thehelpless grandparents. As a final blow, Angelica forges Sergio's handwriting in a letter to Marimar, ostensibly declaring that he never loved her and now demandsa divorce. Marimar vows to exact revenge on Sergio, his father, and Angelica.
A pregnant Marimar relocates to Mexico City where shebecomes the maid of a wealthy older man, Gustavo Aldama. She begins studying andreceiving lessons on how to be a refined lady. She assumes the identity of"Bella Aldama" and later discovers that she is actually Gustavo's heir.
Marimar crosses paths again with Sergio and his family,leading her to plot the downfall of her enemies. She manages to bankruptSergio's father and humiliate his stepmother Angelica, leaving them virtuallyhomeless, while Marimar becomes the proud owner of all her adversary's properties.Sergio divorces Marimar while Angelica dies in a horrible car accident.
In order to keep his finances afloat, Sergio marries a richwoman named Innocencia. She develops a brain tumor and agrees to divorceSergio, leaving him free to remarry his great love, Marimar.
Maria la del Barrio (1995). Thalia assumes the role of a scavenger once again in thetelenovela Maria la del Barrio. She is adopted by a rich businessman andfalls in love with Luis Fernando, the arrogant son. Don Fernando de la Vegabrings Maria into his household as his ward, making her a target of hostilityfor his wife, Victoria de la Vega, and her niece, Soraya Montenegro.
Luis Fernando and Maria tie the knot and are soon expectingtheir first child. The husband happens to witness an innocent embrace betweenMaria and his brother Vladimir. He storms out, overcome with jealousy. LuisFernando does not believe Maria's baby is his, so when her son is born, Mariagives him away during a temporary bout of insanity.
Luis Fernando rescues her from an asylum and adopts anotherchild for her, but she still wonders about the location of her firstborn son.Maria eventually finds lost son named Fernandito, who grew up to be arespectable and good-looking young man.
By this time, Soraya returns to wreak revenge on Maria for taking Luis Fernando away from her (but it was actually Soraya who lured Luis tomarry her under false pretenses prior to his marriage with Maria). Soraya ends upseducing Fernandito and for a time turns him against his biological mother,Maria.
Rosalinda (1999). This telenovela starring Mexican singer-actress Thalia was the last of her TV series aired in the country.
Rosalindais a beautiful young woman who works in a flower shop to pay for her education while aspiring to become a great singer. One day, while delivering flowers to arestaurant, she meets Fernando Jose Altamirano, a wealthy pianist. She instantly falls in love withFernando Jose and tells him of her dream of becoming a singer.
They fall in love, get married, and have a child named Erika, but circumstances forcethem apart. Fernando Jose's stepmother Valeria splits the couple up byinforming him that Rosalinda's biological mother Soledad is serving a25-year prison sentence for the murder of Fernando Jose's real father. The truth is, Soledad isinnocent and just forced to take the blame.
After learning about this horrible news, Fernando Joseabandons Rosalinda and their daughter. Valeria kidnaps Erika. Rosalinda becomesdepressed and eventually loses her sanity. She is locked up in a mental asylum.
Rosalinda is able to escape from the asylum but gets amnesiain the process. She meets Alex Dorantes while trying to steal from his house.The talent agent cleans her up and transforms her into the singer PalomaDorantes. She falls in love with Alex while Fernando Jose marries Rosalinda'ssister, Fedra.
Rosalinda and Alex attend one of Fernando Jose's concertswherein one of his songs reminds her of the past. She gets hit by a car and allher memories come flooding back. She realizes that she is not Paloma, butRosalinda.
She must then choose between herformer lover Fernando Jose and her current flame Alex.
THALIA THE STAR. Thalia captivated the hearts of Filipinoswith her unique mix of innocence and sensuality. That she was a good dancer and singer endeared her even more to Pinoys. Viewers loved Thalia as theunderdog who rose above the challenges and harsh treatment of jealouswomen, usually her mother-in-law.
Her one-week stay in the Philippines in August 1996 receivednon-stop press coverage, eclipsing a peace agreement was beingsigned by the government with Muslim rebels and the centennialanniversary of the Philippine revolution.
In the midst of the festivities, the archipelago becameknown as "Republica de Mari Mar." The rags-to-riches story and bouts of amnesiain her telenovelas may not be original, but her charisma as an actress placed Thalia in a class of her own.