Is Cinemalaya Best Actor Mimi Juareza the next BB?

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Transgender actor Mimi Juareza wins the top acting award in the New Breed category after her effective portrayal of an unlicensed cosmetic surgeon in the movie "Quick Change." (Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images)
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While BB Gandanghari is undoubtedly the most popular local transgender actor, this year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival has discovered a great talent that could rival this mainstream member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
 
See photos: Cinemalaya 2012 winners

He is Mimi Juareza—the five-man jury’s choice for Best Actor (New Breed category), who gave a convincing portrayal in the movie “Quick Change”—which exposes the world of underground cosmetic surgery transgenders like him patronize.
 
Unlike BB, the 39-year-old started a little late as “Quick Change” was his first full-length movie. He was featured in an independent documentary two years ago, but its screening was limited to the United States.
 
“My God karangalan kong makatrabaho ang isang BB Gandanghari!” Mimi exclaimed when Yahoo! Philippines OMG! asked if he’d consider collaborating with the prominent Padilla “sister.”
 
“BB Gandanghari na 'yun e. Mimi pa lang ako. Maganda si BB. Pareho kaming maganda. Tulad ng sinabi ko kanina [sa acceptance speech] this is for my LGBT family.”


Transgenders on the rise

In recent years,  transgenders have been slowly gaining acceptance, especially after BB’s controversial coming out in 2009.
 
Other transgenders like Kevin Balot happily represented the local community and won the Miss International Queen 2012 title in Thailand, while Francine Garcia (Kim Chiu lookalike) was crowned Super Sireyna Queen of Queens in the popular noontime show “Eat Bulaga” last July 27 (Francine was also a supporting cast in “Quick Change.”)


As more transgenders are now on the rise, Mimi has become one proud “sister.”

“Sana maging eye-opener [ang “Quick Change”] at ito na ang way para mabuksan sa mga tao na kaming mga tranny hindi lang 'yung tinatawanan, nilalaro. Kaya rin namin magpaka-seryoso sa limelight.”
 
Long, hard way to becoming 'beautiful'
 
Like other transgenders, Mimi’s is a story of gay struggle against the backdrop of discrimination in a religious country like the Philippines.

“Ayoko talagang maging ganito. Iniiyakan ko. Kinakakausap ko ang Diyos dati noong mas bata ako dahil alam ko kapag ganito ka pinagtatawanan ka ng lipunan, kinakantyawan, binubully.”

He continued, “During college days, dumating ako sa punto na nagpakalbo, nagpatubo ako ng bigote para lang masabi na lalake ako… para hindi ako pagtawanan. Pero kahit anong gawin ko, bilangin ko man ang kilos ko, palakihin ko man ang boses ko, 'yung mga tao naman ang nagsasabi sa'kin na 'Bakla ka. Bakla ka.'”
 
His father’s death 20 years ago forced him to embrace his sexuality and act as breadwinner by working  as a drag performer in Japan.
 
“Kailangan kong buhayin ang pamilya ko. Pagandahan ang laban sa Japan. That's why I started to take hormones at mga pampaganda.”
 
Two decades on, Mimi continues to perform—this time in a bar on Makati Avenue—to support his family,  which he says his “only purpose in life.”
 
“Wala kong ibang pangarap talaga kundi matulungan ang pamilya ko. Hangga't kaya ko pa, hindi ako titigil. Hangga’t meron pa kong magagawa.”

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