Maja Salvador knew that she was born to be a star.
Growing up, she never had qualms playing the entertainer in family gatherings and she had everyone convinced that she would someday enter show business.
Reminiscing about her childhood, she told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal):
"Alam niyo yung bata pa lang maarte na? Nasa dugo. Yung performer kapag mga birthday.
"Ako yung, 'Maja, kanta ka. Maja, sayaw ka.' Ako naman, hindi ako magpapapigil. Perform naman ako nang perform."
No big surprise there since she also comes from the showbiz clan of Salvador.
Some of her relatives include uncle Philip Salvador, aunt Alona Alegre, cousin Jobelle Salvador, and grandather Lou Salvador.
Maja recalled, "Sinasabi na ng family ko, 'Ay, nasa dugo niya ang pag-aartista. Mag-aartista ang batang ito pag nagkataon, pag may chance.'
"Hanggang sa yung mommy ko din, sobrang hilig niya ako dalhin sa VTRs.
"Pero hindi tayo nagkakaroon ng tsansa na makakuha ng mga TVCs or maging parte man lang ng commercial."
Maja was interviewed by the editorial team of PEP.ph for almost three hours via Zoom call on March 8, 2021.
This was when she happily traced her showbiz beginnings and body of work in the last 18 years of her career as an actress/dancer/singer.
MAJA'S FAMILY BACKGROUND AND EDUCATION
Maja's full name is Maja Ross Andres Salvador. She was born in Manila on October 5, 1988.
She was still a baby when her mother Thelma Andres and father Ross Salvador separated. She was their only child.
Thelma then decided to work as an overseas Filipino worker to provide for her child.
Maja was left under the care of her mother's siblings who were based in Aparri, Cagayan.
But Thelma's stint as an OFW lasted for only two years because of an incident that made her come back to the Philippines.
The young Maja didn't recognize her mother, whom she called "Tita" instead of "Mommy."
That made Thelma decide to stay home for good to look after Maja herself.
From then on, Maja formed a strong bond with her mother.
They stayed in Aparri, Cagayan up until Maja was eight years old, when Thelma decided to move back to Manila.
They resided in the home of her mom's first cousin in Cainta, Rizal.
Maja went to school at San Benildo Integrated School in Cainta.
While Maja grew up without her father by her side, she said that her mother taught her not to bear grudges against him.
She was six years old when she met her father for the first time.
Even her paternal siblings and their moms were present at the family gathering.
They would all see each other on weekends, then Maja lost touch again with her father for many years.
Maja was 14 years old when they got reunited in the now-defunct ABS-CBN showbiz-oriented talk show The Buzz.
When asked how many siblings she has, Maja readily told PEP.ph that she has one maternal sibling and nine paternal siblings from four different mothers.
Smiling, Maja said, "Sa father side, sampu kami. Sa Mama ko, kaming dalawa lang."
Maja was referring to her maternal younger sibling Kirby, whom she grew up with.
Is she close to her paternal siblings as well?
Maja answered, "Close ako sa lahat. Kasi parang binilin talaga ng papa namin na huwag namin iparamdam na half-brother, half-sister. Basta dapat as kapatid."
Maja's elder sister Luchi Salvador is the daughter of Ross with veteran actress Malou De Guzman.
Their father Ross passed away in November 2007.
MAJA AS CANDY COVER GIRL AND HER SUPERMODEL DREAM
When Maja was in high school, she dreamed of becoming a supermodel.
Standing at 5'4", she thought that her height can work to her advantage so she asked her mom to enroll her in modeling workshops.
To PEP.ph, Maja related: "Nung Grade 6 ako, first year high school, eto na yung height ko—so matangkad 'tapos hindi na lumaki.
"So feeling nila, 'Ay, tatangkad pa ito. Puwede maging model.'
"So yung mommy ko, in-enroll niya ako sa modeling school. Workshop, ganyan.
"And then, after nun, mahilig ako mag-collect ng magazines. May sinalihan ako na Candy Magazine, kung gusto mo maging cover girl."
Maja was referring to the Summit Media-owned magazine catering to young female teens.
To this day, Maja vividly recalled how she excitedly submitted an essay for a chance to become a Candy cover girl.
"Sulat ka lang ng 200 words kung bakit. Siyempre English, hindi tayo confident.
"Kinausap ko yung pinsan ko, 'i-English mo iyan. Ipapasa ko agad.' In Tagalog ko sinabi yung essay ko. And then nakuha po tayo.
"So nandun yung parang kunektado na makakasama ako sa industriyang ito."
Maja didn't win the essay contest.
But she managed to land her first cover for Candy Magazine's August 2003 issue when she was a showbiz newbie.
MAJA'S REUNION WITH HER FATHER ON THE BUZZ
It was in her modeling workshops that Maja met and became friends with the daughter of her first manager Chit Ramos.
Maja's mom Thelma also got to know Chit, and it was during one of their conversations that Thelma spoke about Maja wanting to meet her father again.
Chit, who happened to be close to the Salvadors, arranged a meeting for Maja and her father Ross.
It was set in the live episode of The Buzz, where Maja was interviewed by TV host Boy Abunda.
Little did Maja know that her guest appearance on The Buzz would serve as her stepping stone for her to become a star.
Recalling those days, Maja told PEP.ph: "Eksakto nanonood si Ma'am Charo, tapos mineeting ako. Siya ang nag-open ng window para gawin akong artista."
The "Ma'am Charo" that Maja was referring to is Charo Santos Concio, who was then executive vice president of ABS-CBN. Charo served as the network's president from 2008 to 2015, and CEO from 2012 to 2015.
During her very first meeting with Charo, Maja vividly recalled that she was asked about her celebrity crush.
Maja readily answered that she likes John Prats, whose onscreen love team with Heart Evangelista just got put to a halt at the time.
The next thing Maja knew, she was partnered with John in the ABS-CBN prime-time series It Might Be You, which aired from December 2003 to December 2004.
Maja and John became the second-tier love team in the romantic-drama series headlined by John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo.
It all felt surreal for Maja, who never expected to be offered a role so soon.
Feeling grateful for her easy entry to showbiz, Maja elaborated: "Nung may opportunity na ganun, nandiyan sa harap mo, grab the opportunity.
"Kasi andun yung, 'Ay, oo, gusto ko.' Kasi pag nood ko lang ng mga artista sa TV, ginagaya-gaya ko sila.
"Nagko-concert ako sa stairs ng tita ko, yung mahabang stairs nila.
"Parang yung ginagawa ko na laru-laro lang para sa akin, eto na.
"Sa kakaisip ko, na-manifest at dumating sa akin yung oportunidad. So nangyari po."
MAJA SALVADOR'S FIRST TELESERYE
In It Might Be You, Maja was cast as an orphan who became close friends with her schoolmate played by John Prats.
Maja's character got a scholarship for her education with the help of John's connection to the wealthy family of Maritoni Fernandez and Tirso Cruz III.
Maritoni and Tirso played John Lloyd's adoptive parents in the story.
Maritoni took Maja in and allowed her to live in their house where John also happens to reside in.
One of the dramatic highlights for Maja in It Might Be You was when she was just about to run away but got caught by John and Maritoni.
Maja was required to cry during that long confrontation scene, and she nailed!
But truth be told, Maja got reprimanded off cam by the TV show's director Gilbert Perez, who is fondly called by colleagues as Manong.
Apparently, Maja didn't want to do an "ugly cry" in front of John.
In a 2017 Jeepney TV interview, Maja recalled in between laughs:
"Si Manong, Direk Manong Gilbert, sabi, 'O, iyak ka dito.'
"E, ayoko maging pangit sa harap ng crush ko. So yung iyak ko, pa-cute lang. 'Tapos, sabi ni Manong, 'Cut! Ano ba iyan! Hindi makaiyak!'
"Inuna ko kasi magpa-cute kay John Prats. Nung nakita ko itsura ni John na, 'Ay, ano ba iyan,' parang napapahiya na ako dahil ang daming sinabi ng director ko.
"So iyong iyak ko, imbes manggaling sa character ko, nanggaling as Maja.
"Naiyak ako kasi parang nakakahiya kay John."
To PEP.ph, Maja said that being scolded by the late Gilbert Perez was like a baptism by fire for a newbie like her.
"Thank you kay Direk Manong Gilbert. Isang malaking factor talaga yung napapagalitan ka.
"Minsan kasi, akala ko, 'Madali lang makakapasok sa industriyang ito. Okay makakapasok ka na, madali na umarte.'
"Hindi. Kailangan pala talagang ramdamin mo yung emosyon. Ibang character yung makita nila. Hindi yung Maja."
It was also in It Might Be You where Maja first showcased her dancing prowess when she was asked to dance with John in one of their episodes together.
This paved the way for Maja and John to become dance partners in the Sunday musical-variety show ASAP.
MAJA GOT CHALLENGED BY JOHN LLOYD CRUZ
When asked if she experienced being snubbed by senior stars when she was just starting out in show business, Maja said she never felt out of place when she was closely working with veteran actresses Maritoni Fernandez and Jean Garcia.
She told PEP.ph: "Siyempre, kapag nag-uumpisa ka, mahirap din naman kung mag-feeling close ka, so nasa tent lang ako.
"Pag meron kakamusta sa iyo, si Ms. Maritoni, siya po kasa-kasama ko sa It Might Be You, 'tsaka si Ms. Jean Garcia.
"Sila yung nakakausap ko kasi sila lagi nakakaeksena ko."
Maja remembered that both Maritoni and Jean were patient with her when they needed to retake a scene because she failed to deliver what was required of her.
"Pero instead na mainis sila, may pagtutulong sila na ginagawa sa akin kasi first-ever teleserye ko yung It Might Be You, e. Walang workshop, salang agad."
But just when Maja was warming up to the cast and staff of It Might Be You, her co-star John Lloyd jokingly rubbed it in that she's a newbie and shouldn't get too comfortable around colleagues on the set.
"May nagsabi [sa akin] na, 'You don't belong here.' Kasi same handler kami. It was John Lloyd.
"Parang [sabi niya], 'You don't belong here.'
"Bilang kuya, di ba, may ganun? Tough love, kailangan mo i-push yung kapatid mo. Kailangan magpakitang-gilas yung kapatid mo."
Maja said John Lloyd laughed so hard after seeing that she was about to cry because of his "joke."
But Maja took it to heart because she was admittedly having thoughts about whether or not she was fit for show business.
As for John Lloyd, Maja said, "So dun nag-start yung closeness namin.
"Siya yung isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit ko minahal ang acting, kung bakit ko binigyan ng pagpapahalaga yung craft na ito.
"Kasi saludo ako kung paano siya."
Maja, however, didn't get to finish It Might Be You because she was tasked to headline the teen-oriented fantasy-horror series Spirits together with Rayver Cruz and John Wayne Sace.
Directed by Chito Roño, the show ran from December 2004 to May 2005.
Maja and John Lloyd later worked together again as a short-lived couple in the blockbuster John Lloyd-Bea starrer One More Chance in 2007.
By that time, Maja said she was already good friends with John Lloyd, whom she calls "Tatay" off cam.
MAJA salvador AS A STAR MAGIC TALENT
When she joined show business in 2003, Maja became part of ABS-CBN's talent-management arm Star Magic, which was headed by Johnny Manahan, aka Mr. M.
Mr. M founded Star Magic in 1992, and it flourished under his leadership for 28 years.
He was the Star Magic head from 1992 to 2007, and remained active as chairman emeritus from 2008 up until his retirement in September 2020.
Maja said she considers Mr. M not just a mentor but a "tatay" who helped her realize her full potential as a star.
She also credited her "nanay" Mariole Alberto—who headed Star Magic from 2008 to December 2020—for helping her find her place in the entertainment industry.
Her Star Magic handler was Nenette Demilio.
As a Star Magic talent, Maja said she let Mr. M and the other ABS-CBN bosses have full control when it comes to making plans for her career path.
She didn't mind whether she goes solo or becomes part of a love team for a movie or TV project.
Maja elaborated: "Love team? 'Okay, go.' Hindi, ayaw niyo? 'Okay.' Ayoko pahirapan sarili ko sa mga desisyon na ang mas nakakaalam, kunwari si Mr. M, 'Sige po. Okay po. I trust you, Mr. M.'
"O, kaya sabihin ng handler ko, 'Baka mas dito tayo.' Yung ganyan.
"Hindi rin po kasi ako mapili."
Talking about how she learned to love her craft, Maja explained, "Struggle din sa akin. Yung kuwinestiyon ko kung gusto ko ba talaga dahil mahirap.
"Hindi siya yung pera-pera lang. Hindi ka magtatagal sa industriyang ito kung pepera-perahin mo lang dahil mabilis kumita sa industriyang ito."
It took several years before Maja realized that she really wants to take acting seriously.
"Hanggang sa todo nag-workshop ako.
"Si Mr M pina-workshop ako nang pina-workshop, pati dance workshop, para mas maging confident din, hanggang sa dun sa pagkanta."
Pointing at how she still needs improvement when it comes to singing, Maja cheerfully remarked, "Hindi lang ako masyado nakapag-focus [sa singing] kaya sakto lang."
MAJA'S LEADING MEN
For Maja, some of her successful onscreen partnerships were the projects that she did with Coco Martin, Jericho Rosales, and Paulo Avelino.
Maja and Coco Martin got paired in the ABS-CBN afternoon drama series Nagsimula Sa Puso in 2009 and the prime-time series Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin in 2011.
She was also the leading lady of Coco for FPJ's Ang Probinsyano, which started airing in April 2015.
She left FPJ's Ang Probinsyano in August 2016—or after almost a year of being part of the still-ongoing Kapamilya series.
Maja also told PEP.ph that her favorite team-up was with Jericho Rosales, the male lead in The Legal Wife (2014) and Bridges of Love (2015).
Another onscreen partner that she mentioned was Paulo Avelino, who was her love interest in Bridges of Love and her leading man in the romantic-comedy movie I'm Drunk I Love You (2017).
Talking about her memorable love teams, she said: "Wala lang talaga super nag-click. Kung meron man, I think Coco.
"Because yung Coco-Jam na fans, super supportive talaga sa kahit na anong gawin namin ni Coco.
"And si Paulo...
"Kung mas nasundan pa yung shows na puwedeng gagawin din namin ni Jericho, puwede rin."
Being paired with different leading men throughout her career taught Maja that she couldn't just rely on having a successful love team to make it big in showbiz.
She explained: "Pero kahit ano pa man, kung may nag-click or hindi, okay ako, kasi more ako dun sa experience ko sa trabaho ko.
"Parang tsina-challenge ko sarili ko na, 'Ano pang kaya mo? Ano pang ibibigay mo?
"'E, wala ka namang click na love team. Paano mo ito gagawin kung solo ka?'
"Kaya talagang bawat project na ginawa ko, embrace talaga yung character."
FINDING HER NICHE AS A DRAMATIC ACTRESS
Maja is aware that she may have had an easy start, but her rise to stardom was a slow burn.
She really had to work hard because doing quality projects doesn't necessarily equate to getting high TV ratings or having box-office hits.
She told PEP.ph: "Proud ako na yung career ko ay hindi yung agad-agad okay.
"Hindi lahat ng shows ko... Alam niyo yun, dahan-dahan.
"Pero masaya ako kung nasaan ako."
What she did was to remain consistent with the standard that she has set for herself—to give every project her best shot.
"Kahit matanong niyo sa showbiz friends ko, kahit yung mga hindi artista.
"Parang tinatanong kasi nila ako parang grabe ko mahalin yung mga characters na ginagawa ko. Pag may new project, parang ang galing ko aralin kung paano ko ibibigay.
"Lagi ko sinasabi na, 'Feeling ko last show ko na. So kailangan ko mag-audition. Kailangan ko galingan.'
"Kasi hindi ako yung tao na suwerte na isang ganito lang, box office hit."
What was the biggest turning point of her career?
Maja replied, "Baka yung movie ko na unang indie film, yung Thelma, kay Direk Paul.
"After nun, dun tayo nakabingwit ng maraming awards."
Directed by Paul Soriano, Thelma was the story of how a daughter of a poor farmer in the Ilocos Region struggled to become a track runner, who eventually became a champion national athlete.
It was the first time Maja won Best Actress in the 35th Gawad Urian in 2012. She also bagged awards from the Luna Awards and Film Academy of The Philippines for Thelma.
Maja believed that her numerous acting stints for ABS-CBN's long-running drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya helped establish her as a dramatic actress.
One of her most unforgettable performances was when she co-starred with Vilma Santos and played the role of a teenager with cerebral palsy.
In the story that was first aired in 2006, Maja experienced discrimination not just from other people but even from her younger sister who felt that she was being a burden to their family.
But Vilma showed the unconditional love of a mother who believes that nothing is too hard or embarassing about having a child with special needs.
Maja's character eventually fell ill and died in the story.
The episode was proof Maja could hold her own even beside a multi-awarded like Vilma Santos.
Maja told PEP.ph, "Malaking pasasalamat ko sa MMK family, sa show ni Ma'am Charo, kasi yun ang naging training ground ko.
"Once a month or twice every quarter, meron akong episode na MMK. Dun ko minahal lalo yung pag-arte, hanggang sa Thelma."
Then Maja landed the iconic role of Ivy Aguas, aka Lily Cruz, in the top-rating ABS-CBN prime-time series Wildflower. It aired from February 2017 to February 2018.
It was a revenge drama that became a huge hit among netizens who would always make a meme out of Maja's memorable lines such as "Huwag ako" and "Just like gold, I am indestructible."
Maja's versatility was evident in her tear-jerking breakdown scenes, shocking confrontations, and thrilling action sequences.
This earned her a Best Actress Award in the first Asia Contents Awards held in Busan, South Korea in October 2019.
Maja, for her part, did not forget to share the credit with her co-stars Aiko Melendez, Tirso "Pip" Cruz III, and Sunshine Cruz who helped her perform well in the series.
"Hindi ko inaako lahat sa kahit anong shows. It's not because of me lang.
"I'm thankful sa mga katrabaho ko kasi hindi makikilala ang shows kundi sa iba-ibang character na nakaka-eksena ko at minamahal ng tao para buo yung storya.
"Tito Pip, Ate Aiko, Ms. Sunshine, saludo ako sa kanila nung Wildflower dahil talagang tulungan."
She went on to say that even the successful airing of The Killer Bride, another revenge drama shown in ABS-CBN, was a product of an ensemble performance.
There were Janella Salvador and Joshua Garcia who did really well in the show, Maja added.
Yet in spite of all her accomplishments, Maja believes that there's still room for growth for her next acting projects.
"I don't consider myself as a superstar. Sinasabi ko na hindi ko nararamdaman.
"Kasi feeling ko ang daming factors para i-consider mo ang sarili mo bilang superstar.
"Alam kong ang dami ko pa ring kakaining bigas. Ang dami ko pa ring kailangan gawin.
"Hindi ko pa nari-reach. Hindi ko alam kung ano yung gusto ko i-reach."
One thing she's sure of is that her passion for her craft will always be a motivating force for her.
"Ang alam ko lang hindi ako mapapagod sa mundong ito, sa kinakagalawan ko, sa paggawa ng mga serye.
"And ever since hindi ko iniisip na may kumpitensya. Nadi-drain ako pag ganun ang iisipin ko."
MAJA puts up her own TALENT MANAGEMENT company
On her 18th year in the entertainment industry, Maja discovered that there's more that she can do aside from being a star.
She entered another chapter of her career and founded her own talent management company Crown Artist Management.
She told PEP.ph that the idea came to her when she realized that she wanted to manage her own career.
Then her contract with ABS-CBN expired in July 2020.
She was still a talent of Star Magic—and was given permission by the ABS-CBN management—when she accepted the offer to be a main host of Sunday Noontime Live (SNL).
Produced by Brightlight Productions and directed by Mr. M, SNL aired as a blocktimer on TV5 from October 18, 2020 to January 17, 2021.
It was around this period that her idea to build her own company fell into place.
Maja explained that she sought the blessing of Mr. M and Mariole Alberto, who were both her inspiration when it comes to managing stars.
"And yun, kasi nagso-sorry pa nga ako kay Mr. M na, ayun nga, baka hindi muna ako mag-sign with Star Magic.
"'Tapos sabi niya, 'Kung yan decision mo, kaya mo naman iyan.' Parang, 'It's for your future,' parang ganyan.
"So, at least may blessing talaga nila."
Maja officially launched Crown Artist Management on March 17, 2021.
She sought the help of boyfriend Rambo Nuñez and his mom Marilen Nuñez to start the corporation.
As CEO and president, she sets the overall direction of the company and is on top of the major decisions the company will take.
MAJA SALVADOR'S LOVE LIFE
Throughout her 18 years in show business, Maja had been romantically linked to some of her co-actors.
But on record, she only had two serious romances in show business.
She was in a relationship with Matteo Guidicelli for two years before they broke up in July 2012.
They worked together in two episodes for Wansapanataym: Inday Sa Balitaw in 2010 and co-headlined the movie My Cactus Heart in 2012.
Her second boyfriend from showbiz was Gerald Anderson.
They were a couple for two years, but their relationship fell apart in March 2015.
Speaking to PEP.ph, Maja said that she had proper closure with all of her exes.
"Civil ako sa lahat ng ex ko. Kasi may mga pinagsamahan naman kayo. 'Tsaka hindi naman porket magdyowa kayo, 'tapos nag-break kayo, magsiraan kayo," she said.
Maja found love again with her non-showbiz boyfriend Rambo Nuñez.
They first became a couple when Maja was 21 years old, but it didn't work because she chose to prioritize her career at the time.
They reconnected and rekindled their romance in December 2018.
- It Might Be You as Cara Victorino (2003)
- ASAP (2003 to 2020)
- Nginiig as TV host (2005)
- Maalaala Mo Kaya (13 episodes from 2004-2010)
- Sa Piling Mo as Marissa (2006)
- Your Song Presents: Sayang Ang Lahat as Charmaine (2006)
- Komiks Presents: Momay as Momay (2006)
- Love Spell Presents Home Switch Home as Shine (2006)
- Star Magic Presents: Sabihin Mo Lang as Celine (2006)
- Komiks Presents: Da Adventures of Pedro Penduko as Merrydith Ambing (2006)
- Pangarap Na Bituin as Kimmy Bautista/Ruby Gomez (2007)
- Sineserye Presents: Patayin Sa Sindak Si Barbara as Agnes (2008)
- Your Song Presents: Kapag Ako ay Nagmahal (2008)
- Komiks Presents: Kapitan Boom as Melody (2008)
- Komiks Presents: Nasaan Ka Maruja? as Leila (2009)
- Nagsimula Sa Puso as Celina Fernandez (2009)
- May Bukas Pa as Stella Rodrigo (2009-2010)
- Your Song Presents: Love Me, Love You as Teacher Glenda Corpuz
- Precious Hearts Romances Presents Impostor (2010)
- Wansapanataym Presents: Inday Sa Balitaw (2010)
- Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin as Kaye "Krista" Villanueva (2011)
- My Binondo Girl as Amber (2011-2012)
- Ina, Kapatid, Anak as Margaux Marasigan (2012-2013)
- The Legal Wife as Nicole Esquivel (2014-2015)
- Bridges of Love as Mia Sandoval (2015)
- FPJ's Ang Probinsyano as SPO1 Glenda "Glen" Corpuz (2015-2016)
- Wildflower as Lily Cruz/Ivy Aguas (2017-2018)
- World of Dance Philippines as celebrity judge (2019)
- The Killer Bride as Camila dela Torre/Alba Almeda (2019-2020)
- Sunday Noontime Live (2020-2021)
- Niña Niño as Nina (2021)
- Subok as Joya (2006)
- First Day High as Pré (2006)
- My Kuya's Wedding as Kat (2007)
- One More Chance as Trisha (2007)
- Kelly! Kelly! (Ang Hit na Musical) as Kelly (2008)
- Villa Estrella as Giselle/Andrea (2009)
- Shake Rattle and Roll XI as Claire (2009)
- Cinco as Rose (2010)
- Father Jejemon as Isabel (2010)
- Thelma as Thelma (2011)
- My Cactus Heart as Sandy (2012)
- 24/7 In Love as Barbara Alcaraz (2012)
- Status: It's Complicated as Rina (2013)
- You're Still The One as Elise (2015)
- Tatay Kong Sexy as Monette (2016)
- I'm Drunk, I Love You as Carson (2017)
- To Love Some Buddy as Faith (2018)