Article by Desa Desiree Tayting / Photos by Aera Delos Santos and Rhobynne Patricia Villaluna
Kontrabida. This is probably the common perception upon hearing her name because of her recent teleserye “The Better Half” where she plays the role of Bianca Buenaflor, a mad woman. But Denise Maria Sanz Laurel, more popularly known as Denise Laurel, is so much more and beyond the characters she portrays.
Born as one of the prominent Laurels and Sanz, Denise didn’t like the idea that she was always titled by her family names. Many would think that everything was fed to her but, definitely not. “I commute by myself to ABS(-CBN) for my auditions, in a jeep, tricycle with a hat and a suitcase or I would go extra early to ride the service van of ABS(-CBN) to get to locations as well”, she tells the story of her humble beginnings in showbiz.
Denise played a lot of interesting characters – from a fictional character to a teacher with a mysterious past – in our favorite TV shows the ‘Precious Hearts Romances’ series, ‘Komiks Presents’, ‘Maging Sino Ka Man’, and a lot more. She also made a loud buzz in 2016 when she reigned as the grand winner of ‘Your Face Sounds Familiar 2’. Let’s get to know her better through her answers to 15 fun and also serious topics/questions.
15 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Denise Laurel
15. She joined showbiz at the age of 6.
Denise started in musical theatre through Repertory Philippines and her first professional play was when she was 6 years old. It was a musical called South Pacific. She relays the story of how she got to showbiz: “Mr. M discovered me in a musical review. He handpicked me after he saw me performing the typical ‘Mr. M’ audition in ABS where you guys line up and say something about yourself.”
At age 9, she made it into ‘Ang TV 2’, a popular kids/teen show of the 90’s.
14. She cannot relate to any of her previous characters.
She explains, “Para kasing ang dramatic nila, I’m not really dramatic in real life or at least I try not to be.” Aside from that, she has no favorite role as she treats everyone different from each other, portraying each one uniquely.
If there was one character farthest from her personality, though, she says it would definitely be her latest character, Bianca of The Better Half. “She is so different from me and ang bigat nya. One of the hardest I’ve ever done!”
“I think everything about her is different from myself. I never use personal experiences kasi to motivate my characters, but I try to learn from them. So I think the most similar thing that I can pick from her is that deep down all she really wants to do is love. I think anybody, all they really wanna do as a human is to love” She shares that this is how she can relate to Bianca. “Kumbaga ‘yun ‘yung lifeline naming dalawa. And I think anybody can relate to that.”
12. She got slapped by a stranger once.
In case you aren’t convinced by her portraying a ‘kontrabida’ character effectively, Denise shares a story of how an old woman came up to her in a mall and slapped her out of nowhere.
“I remember my first show, ‘Pangako Sa’yo’. I was still so young and I was walking in the mall, and this old lady slapped me. And I was like, ‘Excuse me, uhm, pasensya na po, have I done anything to offend you?’ and she was like ‘Maldita kang bata ka!’ Then she was going to pull my hair and I said ‘Pasensya na po. It’s not real, it’s just TV’. The security came and I said it was just okay. But that was the moment that I realized that ‘ahh, that’s good.’ Masakit pero masaya! (laughs)”
12. She was the youngest kontrabida of a show.
Do you remember Denise as being part of the classic ‘Pangako Sa’yo’ with Jericho Rosales, Kristine Hermosa and Jodi Sta. Maria? “I was the daughter of Tonton Gutierrez and Ina Raymundo out of their second marriage. So, I think I was the youngest kontrabida on the show.”
11. This is her favorite line as Bianca Buenaflor of The Better Half:
The scene of the line is where her love interest Marco (Carlo Aquino) realizes her hard past and assures her that he wants to help her and fix her by placing her in an asylum. That’s when Bianca said: “I’m not crazy, I’m just emotional. The only way to fix it is for you to love me.”
10. She would like to be a nun and her dream role is to be a singing martial artist.
You read that right. This woman has the angst to kick butts, but also has a golden heart. “I guess a dream role would be something where I could use all of my talents; there are a lot of things that I could do that people don’t actually know about. Like, I could do stunts.” Coming from a family who is into martial arts, this lady loves action and even knows the basics of firing guns!
When asked about her dream job when she was young, she said she wanted to be a singing karate-chopping nun or a lawyer. “I really wanted to be a nun. It’s just that when I was young, I was one of those girls who got curvy and had this ‘malandi’-looking face. So growing up, people already assumed that I was already ‘malandi’ – a bad person. I couldn’t understand because inside I knew I was good, but everybody was telling me I look like a bad person so I thought I couldn’t be a nun, that I wasn’t worthy to be a nun.”
We all have sad stories like this, though.
9. She can’t live without kilay.
She can’t live without her eyebrow pencil. Because just like many of us, hello? Kilay is life!
8. She’d change her showbiz name if given the chance.
Like some of us, she also got bullied in the past and in her case, it was because of her family name. “I try not to mention that I’m a Laurel because that would get me into trouble most of the time. I would get bullied”, she shares. “I got bullied a lot for being a Laurel, although I’m very proud of them and what they stand for. Who they are, what they stand for and what they’ve done for the country makes me stronger; but there has been a big misconception that you’re wealthy or that you’re spoiled… you come from the States. So, if I knew that you could use other names in showbiz, I’d probably use my middle name like Denise Sanz and make Laurel in the middle to keep it downlow.”
7. Her son is her main inspiration.
“My son is my inspiration. You know when they say that it’s different when you look in the eyes of a child. In the eyes of a child, you always see the good in people first, see the positive first” Denise shares what Bookie, her son, is like: “He’s not iyakin. He’s just so positive that it is an inspiration to me that even I’m (already) old, I don’t want to be jaded by negativity.”
6. She paints and sings for the church.
If not on tapings or shoots, Denise paints, draws and sings for the church. “I’ve been singing for the church ever since I was a child. I sing for the masses, I sing every Palm Sunday in Father Jerry Orbos’ and I’ve been doing it for 12 years now.”
Denise doesn’t really show off these things much and I think we can all agree that you don’t really need to let the public know about the things that are closest to your heart.
5. She isn’t a fan of beans.
If she could remove one ingredient from halo-halo, it would be the beans. “I just find it so strange that it’s there. I guess for texture? I’m not sure. I’d prefer the crushed ice and the other ingredients. But the beans are, like, just random. It’s as if somebody said ‘We ran out of ingredients. Okay, beans! Haha.” Who else finds the beans in the halo-halo strange?
4. She is scared of cockroaches and rats.
“You can put me around snakes and scorpions; but if you put me next to rats or flying cockroaches, I would do anything – like jump over someone just to be above the floor. I’m not a selfish person. If there was a fire, I’d rescue everybody first; but if there’s a cockroach, I’d rescue myself first. Haha.”
3. She buys food for everyone.
If she had a thousand pesos right now, she’d buy food for everyone! And Denise always does. “Whenever I go to the mall, I never come home empty-handed.” With this being said, I’m sure many would sign up as her colleague.
2. Her first on-screen kiss was John Lloyd Cruz!
If there are people she dreams of working with, it would be John Lloyd Cruz again. She had worked with him for a short time before. Plus, JLC was her first kiss on TV! “I’ve worked with John Lloyd, but it was very brief. I was very young at that time. I think he was my first on-screen kiss. This was for ‘Maging Sino Ka Man’. I was his tomboy best friend that secretly loved him. It was just a guesting”, Denise says. “I would love to do something with him again.”
She also dreams of working with “Papa P” (Piolo Pascual). “We were working on the same show before; but never on the same scene, so I would love to work with him.”
1. She is uncomplicated.
Denise describes herself in three words: “Uncomplicated, I would want to be humble and loving”. After meeting this strong and kind woman, we couldn’t agree more.
They say that first impression lasts; but if you first saw Denise Laurel on TV as an antagonist, these facts will convince you that she’s actually a strong woman, a loving mother and down-to-earth individual in real life.