Bessie Badilla honored by Obie-awarded NY theater

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

April 1, 2014

NEW YORK – When it comes to beauty queens, the “Queen B” of the East Coast — more popularly known as Bessie Badilla — has taken her passion for the arts to a whole new level.

At Mayi Theater Company’s 25th anniversary gala, Badilla was recognized for her excellence in the arts.

Mayi Theater Company is an Obie Awardie for being the foremost incubator of new Asian American theater in the US that is shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today.

“To be given an honor by Mayi, it’s big time,” Badilla said. “To be recognized by an organization as big as Mayi is something that I’ve never dreamt of achieving. It makes me feel that I still have a lot to do.”

The Tondo native started as a beauty pageant princess at 18 and turned into a House of Balenciaga model in the 80s. She later became a TV celebrity in the Philippines, starring in popular shows like “Eh Kasi Babae”.

She moved to the US in the 90s to raise a family in Stamford, Conn.

When she became a widow in 2006, Badilla kept herself busy by becoming a movie producer for independent movies and documentaries such as the “Dance of My Life”.

Badilla, who is a cancer survivor, also made history by becoming a two-time carnival queen in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Her latest passion is making Pinoy Brazilian music she calls Brinoy.

“She’s a great artist” Etan Merrick of Mayi Theater Company said. “She’s outrageous and she says funny things. But she’s a wonderful artist, she’s a film maker, she’s a philantropist, she’s a really good representative for the Philippines and America.”

Badilla says at 50, she draws her energy and her youthful looks from what she calls her own fountain of youth.

“Here is my fountain of youth, my gay friends,” she said. “Yes, my LGBT friends, they inspire me, they make laugh, they turn wrinkles into laugh lines, Bootys Babushka did my hair.”

For 25 years, Mayi Theater has been invested in the Asian American community and has showcased many Filipino talents as well.

“It’s because my son is from the Philippines,” Merrick said. “I adopted him in the Philippines, and I have a lot of friends there. I love the country”

“I was adopted when I was four months old,” Merrick’s son Christian said. “I’ve been raised in New York City since then, and I’ve been back twice. And you know New York City is definitely my home but I don’t forget where I come from. And I’m proud to be Filipino.”

You can contact Don Tagala at for more information.

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