Since becoming the host of Magic 89.9's The Pre-game (10 p.m.-2 a.m., Mondays to Thursdays), Debbie Then sure has made a name for herself on the airwaves because of her quirkiness and wit. She even has her own fan club called "The Usual Suspects" who accompanies her in those wee hours of the night.
For those who are curious, yes, she isn't a Filipina. Debbie was born to a Chinese-Bruneian father and a Filipina mother in Brunei Darussalam, a country that for her is very conservative and beautiful. She moved here in the Philippines to work on her dreams of becoming a radio DJ and a television host.
"I was very surprised when I got here in the Philippines," she said. "the lifestyle is very fast-paced as compared to Brunei."
Debbie has adjusted very well though based on the time we've been able to spend with her. She's as full of life as her alter-ego on the radio, her energy rarely dipping as the shoot went on. And as these photos prove, she's got the looks to help carry her talents over to a more visual medium i.e. television. What a boon to television she would be; not only will she capture the chinita-loving demographic, her smarts and vivacious personality should also bring the boys to the yard. And oh, she's hard into comics and the nerd-stuff too. A Wikipedic knowledge of Star Wars and a slew of different superheroes from different comics, series, and universes should net you a load of talk-time with Debbie.
A quick look at her photos on her Instagram and Twitter accounts shows a lot of party pics but don't get your hopes up people; the 21-year old admitted that her partying days are over as she puts her career first. "I rarely go out anymore," says Debbie. “Mostly it’s due to work because all the biggest parties and events usually lands on a work day."
What's a little sacrifice when it's for the sake of ambition, right? Debbie's fun, and is into the things that make life a little less boring. But like a true modern, independent woman, she knows what she wants and has a gameplan on how to get them. Her stint as your June 2016 Idol is part of that—a way to make us realize that yes indeed, there's a beautiful woman behind that beautiful voice on the radio.
Why'd you choose to pursue your career here in the Philippines?
I've always wanted to host or do something in the realms of performance art and media and my cousin who is a model told me to try it out here on my downtime from school. So it really just happened on its own. I really just found myself committing to it because things started happening.
Can you tell us how the Philippines is different from Brunei?
For me, the Philippines is a city while Brunei is a small town. So the lifestyle alone is a stark contrast. Brunei is a very peaceful, conservative country. I love where I'm from for all it is. But I reckon I'm more of a city girl!
Was the transition difficult for you?
No, actually! I adapted pretty well. I found my groove soon enough but of course learning the language was a struggle. I grew up learning to speak Mandarin, Malay, and English so having to learn a new language was harder as an adult than having it taught gradually over the years. Tagalog is also a very confusing language but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it!
Why become a DJ?
On my way to school as a kid I would always listen to my favorite Bruneian radio show and just talk back to the DJ when he or she had topics, riddles, and games or questions. My dad would laugh and tell me I was a talker. I would always say to him and my siblings, "I can do that too! Just you wait—one day I'll be doing that too!"
And funny enough, when I got to the Philippines the cab I was in one day was playing Magic 89.9 and it was my instant favorite! When my cousin found out, he said that my timing was perfect! Magic was holding auditions the week after!
What was your reaction when you were accepted into the Junior Jock program of Magic 89.9? And when you found out that you'll be having your own show?
Well, my radio journey spans about five years. So to summarize it as simple as possible, both these reactions share only one thing in common: My love for radio. Getting into the Junior Jock Program had the young me spilling with joy all over the place, becoming a DJ and finally getting my show had me feeling accomplished. Like the long, beautiful ride finally paid off.
What's the most difficult part of being a DJ?
Keeping every show fresh and different all while staying consistent with the standard of good radio.
What's the easiest part of being a DJ?
Well, this is different for every DJ but the easiest thing for me would be segueing music. That's when you play one song after the other on beat or in a way that makes it sound seamless. Well, it never used to be easy—I trained so hard for almost a year to perfect my segues before I could board alone—so maybe that's why it's easy now, I guess?
Since your schedule is really late in the evening, how do you find time to go out? Or do you go out at all?
I always say, "I'll follow." My friends hate it! But in all honesty, I have no complaints. I love what I do so sacrificing a couple of party nights or showing up late isn't a big deal to me, ha ha!
When you do go out, do people recognize you right away?
No, ha ha! People don't recognize me. Or at least I haven't met anyone that would yet.
We've recently discovered that you're huge Star Wars fan. How much of a nerd are you?
I would consider myself pretty nerdy although I don't hoard around all the facts and details. I grew up to the second trilogy and although hardcore fans hated that one, that was the trilogy that made me fall in love with it and ultimately made me watch the original trilogy. I'm also a huge Back to the Future, Heroes (the original not the reboot), DC, and Marvel Comics fan!
What qualities do you look for in a man?
I like intellectual guys who are laid back. The ones that know what they want and are dedicated to their craft. Witty guys are sexy.
And what qualities do you hate?
Clingy is cute to a certain extent, but with the goals I have and the lifestyle I live, I really need an understanding man who gets that I don't like to text all the time. I'm into relationships that have us both working hard at our respective jobs and achieving. We text here and there to check up on each other but we understand that we're both out grinding. And at the end of the day when we're settling in for the night, we talk on the phone about our day or make time to see each other. But the understanding and appreciation for each other's craft is always there. There's love and respect.
Photography Jerico Montemayor Make-up Rhina Montemayor Styling Sancho Bernardo Hair Ken Azuelas Produced by Gelo Gonzales