AJ Dee: Life after TV Idol
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda () - September 8, 2004 - 12:00am
After all the fuss and frenzy, the hype and hoopla of the MTB Ang Saya Saya talent contest TV Idol UR D Man, hunky model AJ Dee, who placed first runner-up in the said competition, still emerged on top.

After all has been said and done, AJ discovers that there is life after TV Idol. In fact, he is busier than ever – juggling myriad showbiz commitments. And, like his fellow TV Idol finalists, AJ was given the rare chance to become one of the regular hosts of MTB. "I’m on MTB twice a week, every Tuesday and Wednesday," he reports with pride.

Hosting is one aspect of his showbiz career that he would like to further develop. Back in his hometown of Naga, AJ had the chance to cut his hosting teeth on a local variety show, Kilig Bicool. "It was on every Saturday, also on the provincial ABS-CBN 2 affiliate."

Although he would also like to try acting (he appeared on the teleserye Basta’t Kasama Kita before hitting it big on TV Idol), he considers hosting his top priority. "I would like to concentrate on hosting as of now."

When it comes to hosting, he looks up to MTB’s Edu Manzano, known as Doods in showbiz circles, as his idol and mentor. "I’d like to become like Kuya Doods someday," AJ attests. "Even though he is now a veteran in the field, he can still blend well with the newcomers. He’s really a good host. From what I know, he is also very quiet and serious off-camera. But once he is in front of the camera, you’ll see a different Edu."

AJ relates to Edu because he is just as reserved and reticent away from the bright lights. "I also don’t talk much in real life," he owns up. "That’s why I am really exerting extra effort to be more talkative on the show."

His stint on MTB and TV Idol has taught him a lot, he volunteers, about his strengths and weaknesses, his potentials and capabilities as a person and as a TV host. "It was a good experience, all in all," he remarks. "I learned a lot throughout the five-month run of the contest. I learned how to mingle with different kinds of people. I also realized I could do things I thought I couldn’t do before. At first, I feared I wouldn’t be able to accomplish the challenges they presented to us. But still I was able to do it in front of so many people."

One such nerve-wracking challenge was the "singing" portion of the contest. "I used to sing along the videoke machine," he points out. "So I was confident I could do it. But when it was time to do it in front of the camera, I became so nervous. It was really hard singing along with the organ. I was told only professional singers could do that."

To make matters worse, he had to serenade sweet young thing Angelica Panganiban. "I felt so small," he sheepishly recalls.

Still, credit goes to AJ’s chutzpah, his willingness to make fun of himself and push himself to the brink. Such drive and determination he has been honing through the years. Before he ventured into modeling, he was an accomplished athlete. In fact, as a high-school student, he was once part of the national swimming team and had competed in different tournaments internationally. "After the Palarong Pambansa, we became part of the Philippine team," he beams. "We were sent abroad, to Hong Kong, Brunei, Singapore, and Taiwan."

Undoubtedly, his chosen sport has bestowed on him precious lessons he is able to make fine use of in his present life.

"First of all, discipline," he pipes in. "It’s really a big thing. If you want to attain anything, you must be willing to work hard for it. Focus. You really have to focus to be able to achieve anything positive. Also, swimming has helped me develop my competitive skills. My drive to win. That was one thing I had to my advantage."

Truth is, before TV Idol, AJ joined and topped two modeling competitions. He was declared second runner-up at the Mossimo Bikini contest and was first runner-up at the Bodyshots search. That’s precisely why he didn’t feel disappointed even though he didn’t clinch the grand prize in TV Idol. He knows fully well how to handle the highs and lows of competing. "I’m used to it," AJ affirms. "In any contest, you can’t always land on top. You can’t win all the time. From all the contests I’ve joined, from swimming to modeling, I’ve learned not to expect too much, so as not to get frustrated in the end. I’d still do my best, but I wouldn’t let it go to my head and affect me negatively."

If AJ sounds like he has a good head on his broad swimmer’s shoulders, it’s because he has already reached a certain level of stability even before joining the topsy-turvy world of show. He is particularly earnest about his spiritual growth and regularly attends Bible studies.

Moreover, he had already earned a degree in Management, from the Ateneo de Naga, and had already put up his own booming business (the 3 Deez Computer System, an Internet café) in his home province of Camarines Sur, before relocating to Manila.

In the future, after excelling and making a name for himself in showbiz, he would like to diversify and go into the F&B biz, full blast. "My dream is to own a restaurant and bar," he quips. "I plan to open shop in Naga. It’s because there is less competition and therefore more opportunities in the province than in Manila."

Spoken like the level-headed guy, ahem, TV Idol that he is.

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