There’s so much pressure,” quips 20-year-old Chalk Bright Young Manila 2015 winner Maqui Castelo. “There are CEOs who are millionaires, billionaires by the time they’re 20. People like Justin Bieber, as much as I hate to admit it. The pressure to succeed is much higher than it was before.” No truer words were ever spoken.
In an age where the sky’s the limit, Maqui and his fellow winner Zoe Vinluan are poised to make a name for themselves well above the hundreds they bested in Chalk magazine’s annual brains and beauty competition and well below the drinking age limit (at least in the United States). He continues: “Now, if you’re not anybody by the time you’re 25, you’re probably not going to be anybody after that.” You have to start young, he says, “Get connections, build your network — or else, you’ll end up lost in the long run.” Again, no truer words have been spoken.
When people say “young” these days, they equate it with the acronym YOLO (You Only Live Once), shares the 18-year-old Zoe, a sophomore at Trinity University of Asia. “But being young isn’t just about living in the moment. It’s about living for the future.” The manner in which she speaks reveals her hunger for accomplishment, characteristic of her generation — not to mention her sense of trajectory. Zoe and Maqui don’t seem bothered by the notion of “paying your dues” — rather, they’re ready to extract the juice from whatever metaphorical fruit is hanging nearby.
“Parents don’t realize that we have so much to think about now compared to how it was before,” Maqui continues. Opportunities abound, but only if you seize them. These opportunities can be scarce when you don’t know where to look. It’s the “Catch 22” of this generation: being everywhere and nowhere at once. Thankfully, these two keep their fingers on the pulse, with heroes ranging from BJ Pascual to Julia Barretto, and possess a kind of self-awareness that might just get them through the rat race of millennial self-actualization.
Hypebae: Maqui Castelo is a lover of visual art.
Tell me something about yourselves.
ZOE: I’m versatile. I can dance, I can sing, I can act, I can write, I can be a model. But I also excel in my studies. I’m a little bit of everything.
MAQUI: I’m a photographer and aspiring filmmaker. I do graphics, too. But I’m more inclined towards photography. That’s how (Chalk) marketed me, actually — a “creative cutie.” Aside from my performing arts side, I also do visual arts.
What are your favorite subjects to shoot?
MAQUI: Mostly street urban style — like stuff you’d see on HypeBeast. But at the same time, I try to focus on something I can get work from. So I’m trying to develop a style for fashion. I’m still trying to build a portfolio. One of my pegs is BJ Pascual.
Is there something you’re passionate about above all else?
ZOE: It has to be my dancing and modeling. Strutting in front of the camera and being the “swag queen” that I am. Dancing is a passion. I can show people who I am. Contemporary is showing my deeper emotion. Hip-hop shows my cool side.
MAQUI: Right now, it’s photography. With dancing, acting, singing, even modeling, sometimes I feel bad because there are other people who are better than me. With photography, when I see photographers take a really good photo, it doesn’t make me feel bad. It makes me want to do better.
Queen Kunta: Zoe Vinluan loves to show her hip-hop side.
Whose work do you idolize?
MAQUI: Nolan. I love the fact that he doesn’t make it chronological. The timeline is messed up but at the end, it makes sense. It’s ingenious in a way. It’s something I want to do. I’m also taking workshops right now under Mr. Dan Villegas. He’s the director of English Only, Please. He took a few of us under his wing, those he thinks might have potential.
What’s your takeaway from Bright Young Manila?
ZOE: Being myself. People in the industry want a certain image for you. When you try to be yourself, you never know if you’ll come out on top with your true personality.
MAQUI: It was very humbling. It was a lot harder compared to other competitions It was harder to get people to vote for me. I didn’t have the highest votes. Zoe did. Out of the guys, I was fourth highest. It put my feet on the ground: “You’re not that big of a deal, Maqui.” It’s better to be humble.
Who do you look up to?
MAQUI: Julia Barretto. Even with all the bashers, she stays the classy person she is. She’s my age, too. Also, Piolo Pascual. Not because he’s handsome but because he’s a Christian like me.
Paint a picture of your future.
MAQUI: It’s so much easier to produce art; even the ones who aren’t good are producing art. I feel like that’s a good thing. There’s a new renaissance. The appreciation of art right now is higher than it was before. There are bloggers, photographers, writers. Look at Articulo Uno and Heneral Luna. More and more people are taking risks. It’s very exciting and I want to be a part of that.
ZOE: It’s going to be a colorful one.