For some stars, fame runs through their bloodline. They’ve turned their family's legacy into a business, which for some, span for generations. One celebrity who secured her place in the industry and the public eye at an early age is Julia Barretto.
Since she was six years old, the actress, model, and entrepreneur has been captivating Filipinos with the acting prowess she first unleashed as the young Melanie in ABS-CBN's teleserye Walang Kapalit up until her recent foray into the sexy genre as Candy in Viva Films' Expensive Candy.
Her eventful tenure in the industry is proof that skills, beauty, and charm are innate in Julia because, after all, she is a Barretto.
Considered one of the most famous families in the country, the Barrettos have been in the limelight for over three decades. Their showbiz journey began with the debut of Julia's aunt Gretchen as a "Regal Baby" in 1984 and aunt Claudine as part of the youth-oriented variety show Ang TV in 1992. Julia's mother, Marjorie, likewise started her own path in the industry in the 90s, with the film Makuha Ka Sa Tingin.
Since then, the lives of the Barretto sisters—with their ups, downs, and everything in between—have been put under the microscope for everyone to see.
Amid the family drama on and off the camera, Julia recognizes how being a Barretto helped her navigate through the many intricacies of her chosen career.
In this PhilSTAR L!fe exclusive, Julia talks about how her aunt introduced her to showbiz, why growing up in a family of celebrities is "really normal," and how her own achievements have made her a star in her own right.
With her dimpled smile, angelic voice, and calm demeanor that she exhibited throughout our four-layout photo shoot, it's no wonder that Julia has become the darling of the Filipino audience.
Like her character Candy, the 25-year-old actress gave off the same laid-back, no-fuss vibe as she began talking about her showbiz beginnings during our sit-down interview one rainy Sunday.
"My first teleserye was Walang Kapalit, wherein I played the young Claudine (Baretto), that was directed by Wenn Deramas. It was her primetime show with Piolo Pascual, and I played the young Claudine there," Julia started.
"It happened just so randomly because they were looking for somebody who could play the young her," she continued. "Wala lang, my aunt at that time just thought maybe I would be interested to do it, and I happened to be curious of what it was going to be like so I said, 'Yeah, okay, game.' And then I fell in love with acting. Like, I really enjoyed it."
Performing in front of the lens came naturally for Julia, as her Tita Claudine familiarized her with the facets of drama production prior to her debut. And for that, she looks at her aunt with high regard.
"They were always taking me to work so, I think, when you’re exposed to something for so long and that’s the only life you were exposed to, more often than not, you’ll end up doing the same thing," she said.
"My Tita Claudine has really inspired me so much. I’m a big fan of her work and just the film she’s done in the past, and her versatility as an actress is also something I want to achieve growing up."
After her stint in 2007's Walang Kapalit, Julia went about bagging roles alongside big stars like Ruffa Gutierrez and Eugene Domingo in Kokey, as well as Jake Cuenca and Albert Martinez in Palos.
I do wanna have my own family and have plenty of kids at some point in my life. Only God knows when. I mean, those are the bigger things I want to achieve in life. I hope I get to a point where I can look back and I’m proud of everything I’ve done and I can rest.
Despite being wrapped up with the fame that made her into one of her generation's most promising stars, the young Julia remained humble, as her mother Marjorie nurtured her to be.
"I think the only advice I really got from my mom is really just a reminder that I’m still human at the end of the day and her child," she said. "So her advice wasn’t workwise. It was always, you know, 'Be humble, be kind, stay grounded, and always give it your best performance.'"
This down-to-earth ethos is, in fact, one that is lived by the entire Barretto family, who Julia describes as "normal" despite living through decades of celebrity phenomenon.
"Actually from our point of view, being in the family, it’s really normal. Just being in a normal family," she told PhilSTAR L!fe, noting that their family's get-togethers never touched on their affairs at work.
"Everybody’s in the industry so if you talk about it, it’s not new to anybody. If we’re gonna catch up, we’re gonna catch up on what’s new about our personal lives rather than what’s new at work because who doesn’t know what’s new at work because you see it in the media. So, it really doesn’t revolve around work," she explained.
A doting daughter and sister
Julia took a pause from showbiz during her early teenage years to focus on her education—her mother's prerequisite for her to move on to her dream of becoming a full-time actress.
"She said, 'You have to finish high school for you to continue what you wanna do," Julia recalled. "So, I kept my promise. I finished high school."
The actress revealed that her break was one that was "decided upon" by her management because she was at an "awkward age at that time."
She recalled, "My manager was also suggesting that I take a break for a while because I was also at that awkward stage. So, parang, they couldn’t give me roles that were young because I was also not young anymore. But they couldn’t give me roles that were mature because, you know, I was in a very awkward age at that time—13, 14, 15."
"So after 4 years, I went back. I was 16 and never stopped since," she added.
Since her return, Julia has starred in shows, namely Mirabella, And I Love You So, A Love To Last, in addition to the crowd-favorite series Ngayon at Kailanman.
She continued to showcase her acting skills in movies, including Vince and Kath and James, Love You to the Stars and Back, and Between Maybes, while gaining recognition from various award-giving bodies like the FAMAS, PMPC Star Awards, and Guillermo Mendoza Box Office Entertainment Awards.
The list is long but at the end of the day, the actress makes it a point to share her hard-earned rewards with her family, and makes sure to give credit where it's due.
When Julia's younger brother Leon graduated in June 2021, their mom publicly thanked her for helping her "put Leon in a good school."
"You must be so proud too," Marjorie wrote in her Instagram post. Julia is no doubt proud of her brother but as the doting daughter that she is, she would rather give all the praises to her mother.
"You know what, I really don’t deserve any credit for this. I feel like if there’s anyone who deserves credit for everything it’s really my mom," Julia spoke passionately to PhilSTAR L!fe.
"She’s worked so hard as a single mom to really give us a good life and good education. So for the extra things that my siblings wanna enjoy, I’m always just there to support if they ask. I’m always just there to support their dreams but I don’t deserve any of the credit."
The actress went on, saying she prefers to provide for her siblings "in private" and that doing so keeps her "motivated to work."
"As you can see, no one’s aware I like it that way, that they don’t know what I’ve helped them with," Julia continued. "I’d rather that people don’t know 'cause I like that I get to help in private and be silent."
Outside of her films, shows, and YouTube vlog with almost 2 million followers, Julia is not only a silent giver but a selfless one at that.
While the actress has been giving her family a bounty share of her incentives, she has been doing so with some of her own dreams kept on the sideline.
"I do wanna finish college at some point in my life," she revealed, noting that she would like to pursue psychology, like her sister Claudia, with the hopes of understanding people and herself better.
"I just like understanding people more in-depth because it’s just nice to have more compassion for people who sometimes need it most," she said. "I feel like we all go through some mental issues. I feel like when you have a better and deeper understanding of it then it’s good for yourself but if you can help somebody then that’s good."
Growth and rebirth
Julia continued her pursuit of growth during the pandemic by launching her own accessory brand, The Juju Club, in October 2021. This online store offers colorful dainty hair clams, scrunchies, chunky rings, bucket hats, retro-inspired sunglasses, and more to kikays of any age.
"The things that you see under the Juju Club are the things that I actually use on a daily basis. I kinda just wanna share that passion of mine and make that more accessible for people who like the same things as me. So, you know, we made it affordable," the actress-entrepreneur said.
Julia found this period of isolation as "the right time" to venture into business, with the boom of e-commerce. "I feel like it was the right time to do it, sell it online, because everyone’s online and it was more convenient for people to order and just have it delivered straight to their home," she said. "So we felt it was the right time and I was just very passionate about it."
The pandemic has served as a turning point in Julia's life not only in terms of business but more so, her showbiz career. Last September, the actress dived into the sexy genre as a sex worker named Candy in Jason Paul Laxamana's film Expensive Candy.
The movie, which hit theaters nationwide on Sept. 14, follows the story of public school teacher Tota Camaya (Carlo Aquino) as he exerts efforts to buy the time and capture the heart of Candy.
Julia told PhilSTAR L!fe that the script was pitched to her by Laxamana two years ago, and it was a "yes" for her on the get-go.
"Well, one was it was because Direk Jason was doing it and this is our second film together. And I’ve always liked his style of writing and directing," the actress said. "He pitched me a material that I've been wanting to do, something out of the box and challenging. I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity doing something out of my comfort zone."
Aside from the usual preparations she had to do physically, Julia immersed herself in the nightclubs of Angeles City, where she was also trained to dance seductively by the person she's portraying in the film.
Julia described the entire experience as "definitely challenging mentally, physically, emotionally." Still, she said it was worth it, especially because her role as a sensuous woman reflects her "period of growth and rebirth."
If I’m happy and I’m contented with the work that I’ve done then that’s more than enough for me for one day when I decide that I’m done with what I’m doing.
Asked if she would be willing to accept more sexy roles after Expensive Candy, the actress quipped, "Sure, why not?"
She explained, "Sometimes being sexy is just part of the characterization. It’s really more about the material or the story you’re going to tell so I think if sexy is part of having to tell a story, [then] sure, why not."
"For me, at the end of the day, if I feel full as an actor, that’s all that matters. At the end of the day, I go home with my own feelings, and I go home with my own happiness," Julia continued.
"So if I’m happy and I’m contented with the work that I’ve done then that’s more than enough for me for one day when I decide that I’m done with what I’m doing. If you get to perform it right, that’s all that matters."
As the Expensive Candy star looks forward to accepting more challenging roles in her career, she is also set on accomplishing more in other aspects of her life.
Apart from aspiring to finish college with a degree in psychology, Julia has been outspoken about her dreams of being a mother and concluding her showbiz career with a quiet life with her own family.
"I do wanna have my own family and have plenty of kids at some point in my life. Only God knows when. I mean, those are the bigger things I want to achieve in life," she said. "I hope I get to a point where I can look back and I’m proud of everything I’ve done and I can rest."
Until then, Julia is still keen on showing the world all that she is and all that she can be by, first and foremost, being her authentic self to everyone around her.
"When you get to a point in your life where you really care less about what people have to say, that’s when you’ll truly be happy in life because you’re not living your life for these people, you’re living your life for yourself and the people that matter to you," she explained. "I feel like you only learn that the older you get. You gotta care less about these people because you’re never gonna get what you want in life if they decide your life for you."
"You should go for it because you know life is so short," she added. "Go for it, whatever it is you wanna do. At the end of the day, right, you gotta make yourself happy."
Makeup by Robbie Pinera
Hair by Raymond Santiago
Styling by Cath Sobrevega
Assisted by Riri Verano and KT Landingin
Layout by Mina Lampitoc
Shot on location at Rizal Park Hotel Manila
Special thanks to Mitch Garcia-Arce, Jhoanna Rafols, and Caryl Paraico