She's known all over the Philippines for her quick wit, her ability to speak 100 words per minute, and her infectious sense of humor. But it's her no-nonsense, no-holds-barred, this-is-me attitude that has really won the archipelago over. What you see is what you get with Melai. "Char!" she says, every time she finds herself overwhelmed by something.
A Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Female Awardee for 2010 (CLICK HERE), Melissa "Melai" Cantiveros never expected to become a household name when she first set foot in the Big Brother House, but she loves it.
"Sobrang happy talaga ang feeling na sa buong Pilipinas, kilala ako. Kahit pumunta ako sa Baguio, kahit saan ako pumunta, kahit pumunta ako sa Batangas, parang, 'Hoy, Melai!'" she enthuses. "Di ko in-expect na kilala ako. Sobrang happy ng feeling at sobrang overwhelming," she says of her newfound fame.
Like all Pinoy Big Brother winners before her, she was thrust into the showbiz limelight upon her exit from the House. All of a sudden, this would-be teacher is now a television star. It's not easy.
"Pinakamahirap sa akin 'yung mag-acting!" she tells Cosmopolitan- Philippines. "'Yung mag-drama. Dapat daw natural, e, hindi natural sa 'kin."
Surprised fans flocked to the Big Brother gates during her Fun, Fearless Female shoot for Cosmo, thrilled to catch a glimpse of the newly-minted star. Shouts of "Melai, mukha kang mayaman! Ang ganda ganda mo, Melai!" broke the silence every now and then, and Melai would offer her supporters a toothy grin. "Ang mahirap talaga sa pagiging sikat is yung hindi ka na makapaglakad sa kalsada nang maayos," she says. "Doon ka na lang sa kuwarto mo pag gusto mo ng tahimik."
Her life is definitely not quiet anymore. Showbiz was never her ambition, but it is her life now. "Siguro dadaan lang 'yan sa isip ko, na gusto ko talaga maging showbiz. Pero ang gusto ko talaga is teacher."
She hopes to continue her education someday. "Para kung magkaroon ako ng anak, hindi 'Uy, si Mommy, walang pinag-graduweytan!' di ba?" she explains. "'Pag malaos na, mag-aaral na ako," she quips.
But for now, she's enjoying her fame. She loves that people love her and are inspired by her. "Hindi naman ako masyadong maganda, pero dumating ako sa point na ganito," she says, trying to explain her ever-growing fanbase. "Parang, wow! Ang ganda-ganda ko na ngayon! Kaya siguro na-inspire [ang mga tao] sa 'kin, kasi puwede rin sila gumanda," she jokes. "Okay? Puwede rin kayo gumanda katulad ko. Mag-makeup lang kayo!"