For a reluctant star, 23-year-old ex-TV Idol finalist AJ Dee has done quite well for himself. And to think that initially, he wasn't even interested to join the contest that paved the way for his entry into showbiz.
Now, not only is he part of the cast of ABS-CBN's newest primetime teleserye Vietnam Rose where he gets to rub elbows with acting veterans like Maricel Soriano and John Estrada. Recently, his latest show, Pinoy Big Brother Buzz, debuted right after ASAP Fanatic and before The Buzz. It’s a new, 45-minute show where AJ gets to be a roving reporter and update people on what's new with evicted PBB housemates Rico, Bob, Racquel, Chx and JB. AJ will share hosting duties with former Buzz Break co-hosts Anne Curtis and Pokwang.
Just this past week, AJ and his crew followed some of the evicted housemates as they began taping for various ABS-CBN shows. Although he doesn't always get to catch Pinoy Big Brother because he's always out working, he has his own PBB reporter in his mother, who regularly updates him on what's going on inside the Big Brother House. "My mother is very updated!" he laughs. "She always tells me what happened whenever I get home at night. So it’s as if I don’t miss anything at all."
AJ and his mother agree on one thing: their favorite housemate–and their bet to be the last housemate standing–is Franzen. " I think his personality is okay. He knows how to blend with all sorts of people," says AJ.
Aside from his two shows, AJ is busy with various guestings. He is one of the image models of the Pink/Blue Soda brand of clothing and will soon be seen on a billboard along with fellow endorsers Mariel Rodriguez, Bianca Gonzales, Borgy Manotoc and Kelly Misa.
Although his being busy hardly leaves him time for himself, AJ isn't complaining. "I’m even thankful, because I always dreamed of joining showbiz, and now it’s coming true," says the tall, good-looking TV Idol finalist who went to ABS-CBN to supposedly audition for a new show. What he didn't know was that the "new show" was actually a "new portion" on an old show. When AJ found out it was a contest, he wanted to back out. But since he was already there (and since the contest was already underway) he had no choice but to stay and tough it out.
And while he didn't win the title, TV Idol hasn't been a losing experience for him. Because of the exposure he got on the contest, offers began to come in. And because of those offers, AJ has not only become a familiar face to showbiz fans; the steady stream of work has brought him other blessings, such as the new four-storey, five-bedroom house in Quezon City that he bought and furnished for his family.
Like anyone who works hard for his money, AJ resents any insinuations that whatever he has is the fruit of something other than his labors–specifically, a gay benefactor.
"It hurts, of course," he says. "I got this house as a bank loan. My mother sold our property in the province to add to the payment of the house. Sana naman, kung magsasalita sila ng ganyan, dahan-dahan sila. It destroys other people’s reputation."
AJ considers all this gossip a proverbial bump on the road to fame. Right now, he is very focused on his career. He is enjoying his work very much, especially Vietnam Rose. In fact, he and the rest of the Vietnam Rose cast–including Angelica Panganiban and Star Circle Quest (SCQ) finalist Jason Abalos, with whom he figures in a love triangle on the show–recently returned from Vietnam, where they taped several episodes.
The trip to Vietnam was so much fun. AJ and his co-stars were even given an allowance of $110, which, when converted into Vietnamese currency, turned out to be a whopping 1.5 million dong. "At first, all of us laughed. We said, `We’re already millionaires!’ But we didn’t know that cigarettes there cost 15,000 dong a pack. Our 1.5 million dong vanished in a flash!"
But the real prize turned out to be non-monetary: the chance to work with acting greats like Maricel Soriano. Like any showbiz newbie, AJ was intimidated the first time he met the Diamond Star. "First impression ko sa kanya, sobrang strict siya. Ganoon kasi lahat ng naririnig kong kuwento," says AJ. "But I realized she’s nice after all when I worked with her. She always helps me out in our scenes. And she’s fond of making us laugh. Working with her is fun."
AJ intends to make good on what he's accomplished so far. He makes sure he goes to church regularly (he is a Baclaran devotee). He also attends workshops when he can. "I also watch myself on TV so I will know in what areas I can improve on," he says.
Friends in the business also constantly remind AJ of the need to always be aware of what he's doing. "Maybe, I’ll just continue what I started, and just avoid what will do me harm," continues AJ.
With this kind of an attitude, no doubt AJ will go far in this business he now loves with a passion.