A Filipina’s Happy Slip is Showing
For decades, actors of Asian descent have been trying make it big by breaking into mainstream Hollywood, usually with limited success. Thirty-one year old Christine Gambito, an American born to Filipino immigrants in Virginia, took a different route and achieved what others have been trying to do for years in only a matter of months – become famous.
With a little help from technology, Christine is now one of the most popular faces on the Internet. Proof of this is that an entry from her video blog, or vlog, HappySlip.com, garnered enough votes to be named second Best Comedy at the 2006 YouTube video awards. Her video “Peelings”, which is a spoof on a fractured conversation between three family members – all of them played by Christine ‑ has had more than 200,000 viewers on YouTube and admirers have even begun posting videos about Christine herself on YouTube, praising her as a new star for the Internet age.
Happy Slip, which is a one-woman production team, is a play on the term “half slip”, which her mom, in her Filipino-English accent, always reminded her to wear as a young girl. “Christine, put on your happy slip!” she parodies in one of her videos.
Begun only in September 2006, the vlog, which features a variety of short homemade video parodies, gained almost instant success. Her channel on YouTube currently ranks as the 11th most subscribed channel of all time, with over 32,500 subscribers, well ahead of others that have been in the widely popular video hosting site longer. With viewers from countries like the UK, Germany, and Canada, along of course with those from the US and the Philippines, Christine can practically be called an international star.
While Christine admits that she has been to the Philippines only once when she was barely a walking toddler, her most popular videos are those that parody the Filipino family culture but she also muses on the wonders of Mac computers and stages parodies of television soap operas.
“Growing up with my parents, grandparents, and all the aunties and uncles created a little Philippines for me,” she told Asia Sentinel in an email interview.
In these videos, she makes fun of how hard it is to carry on a normal conversation with adults who sport bad English and terrible listening skills, as exemplified by her parents and an aunt – characters she hilariously mimics in the videos. In “Mixed Nuts”, the video that won at the YouTube awards and that has been viewed almost 3 million times, she shows how relatives always try to pry or find something wrong with you. In “Peelings”, she tackles how parents are always showing off their children.
“From the feedback that I get, people of all different cultures are able to relate to the characters and little stories. Immigrant families seem to all have these types of characters in their lives, and have the same communication problems,” she says.
Thus, in a borderless world existing in a digital age, Christine was right on target with Happy Slip.
Not that she really set out to become an Internet star when she uploaded her first video. It was, as she says in one of her vlogs, just about fulfilling the desire for creative expression.
Since the age of 4 or 5, Christine was already entertaining family members gathered during holidays by spoofing her mom. By the time she was in middle school, she knew she wanted to become an actress. But not wanting to be “so desperate to take on any acting job just to pay the rent,” she went to nursing school.
“There’s a stereotype that every Filipina is a nurse, but I actually did this with foresight,” she explains in one of her vlogs. “It’s flexible, and you can quit doing it for a time and go back to it. They always need nurses, and it’s just a good skill to have.”
She worked on and off as a nurse for about eight years, quitting only when she gave birth to her son two years ago. Throughout this time, she did the conventional auditioning-here-and-there route towards becoming an actor. But while she has appeared in some commercials and industrial training videos, she was tired of being cast as the “token Asian woman” and longed to put her wacky, creative energy to use. Happy Slip is her answer to this need.
“Commercials are about being in the right place at the right time and having the right look. It’s so random, but with doing your own show, you can showcase the full potential of your talent and build your audience – all the while calling your own shots,” she says.
Taking ideas from her family, television shows, and Internet culture, Christine sits down to write a script, sets-up her digital video camera and floodlamps, does her own hair and make-up, acts, edits the videos in her laptop, and uploads them on to the Internet.
Happy Slip has become so successful that she decided last month to work on it full time ‑ through advertisements and merchandising, she does earn money from it. There are already offers for it to go mainstream, but none appeal to her at the moment.
Her acting dreams and need for a creative outlet are all fulfilled by Happy Slip in its current form, and Christine says she is already is already happy with that.