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WD: After graduating college I decided to travel around Asia for 3 months. In the first month I only made it to Indonesia and Singapore, until I finally settled in the Philippines. The moment I got to the Philippines I bought a 'Filipino For Beginners' book and started learning the language right away. Being half filipino I became so intrigued with the language and the culture and wanted to learn more about it all. I grew up in a predominantly white community with no Filipinos and my mom speaks 5 languages, but English is the only language she ever used given that my dad is only an english speaker. I quickly became obsessed with learning tagalog and spent entire days and nights reading books, memorizing words, and making it my job to learn the language. I then made the decision to stay in the Philippines for at least 1 year, and I would not leave the country until I was 100% fluent. This is where I first pondered the idea of creating videos of my “turning filipino” experience and making a youtube series out of it starting with the thesis, “Posible ba matuto ng tagalog sa loob ng isang taon lamang?” Check out my video called “How I learned tagalog “ to find out the extreme measures I took to learn! #shamelessplug. But of course I needed a way to make money to finance my stay and luckily I was presented with a great opportunity. As I was eating lunch at Greenbelt mall, a man approached me asking me if I was interested in commercial modeling as he insisted I had the look for it. I was excited at the opportunity, tried it out the next day, and ended up making a living from it for the rest of the year.
AL: Since your 'Mudra' is a Filipina, were you exposed to the Philippine culture growing up in the States?
WD: Besides have rice with every meal, not so much. We grew up in a very western, all american type of household.
AL: How long did it take you to learn the Tagalog you know today and how quickly did you adapt to your new lifestyle?
WD: It took me about a year to speak straight tagalog, but at least 18 months to become completely fluent and understand everything as well. I learned how to speak before understanding it due to my unorthodox method of learning and memorizing the dictionary. I adapted to the lifestyle pretty quickly, doing everything as common filipinos did. I only listened to pinoy music, ate balut and other filipino foods, rode jeepneys and the MRT, and faced my biggest fear almost everyday which was facing the camera. Imagine that? I was EXTREMELY camera shy before I started vlogging. Overall I was enjoying every minute of the experience as it was a new type of lifestyle, a constant challenge that pushed me out of my comfort zone every day. One of my life mottos is to try something new everyday that I've never done before so exemplifying this was a thrilling experience. After living in California for 21 years, I was more than ready to try something new and this Philippine lifestyle was it!
AL: Being in the entertainment industry doing acting, modeling, hosting, etc. we're sure that in itself must keep you very busy. What was the reason for you to also include on the list, creating Youtube videos?
WD: I had been in the Philippines for a little more than a year before I started Youtube. I only modeled for about a year and I did it just to help me get to the next level - Television and the entertainment industry. I understood modeling was only something you could do for so many years, and it was never my longterm goal because I knew realistically it's not where I would excel. Eventually I got my first television opportunity as a guest on a reality survivor-esq show called “Juan Direction: Juan Islanders.” That would lead to me working with TV5 for the next 6 months as I guested on different shows every now and then. But without any regular shows and no solid viewership, I knew I needed to get to the leading networks, GMA or ABS-CBN if I wanted to make a living out of entertainment and excel in the industry. I did not want to enter the normal process that everyone else did of going through workshops like Starmagic and compete against others who were younger, more talented, and spoke way better tagalog than me. I felt that I had a knack for entertaining and understanding what people find amusing, but these traits are easily recognizable in talent building workshops where they mostly focus on the standard triple threat talent who can sing, dance, and act. Only an opportunity on a big reality show or hosting gig is where my “talents” had a shot at being showcased and I failed miserably at the PBB audition. Without any other options I decided to try out Youtube and create my own type of show, “The Art of Tagalog.” The plan was to have at least one of my eight videos to go viral and then GMA or ABS-CBN would see the potential I had and offer me a contract as a result. This would be an 8 episode series mixed of vlogs and social experiments that would concentrate on my personal thoughts regarding my new life in the Philippines and the trials of learning tagalog. At this moment it had been more than a year that I had been in the Philippines and I decided to stop doing commercials, hosting, practicing dancing/acting, and instead focused all my attention towards writing scripts, jotting down ideas, and learning how to create videos and edit. After many months of working on these videos, I finally released them, one by one every Monday night. My fourth video “Salitang Kalye” was the first to go viral, but it was not until my last video of that series “Foreigners Speak Salitang Beki” that I would become exceptionally noticed. Within a week that video garnered 2 million views on Facebook, 200,000 on youtube, and was featured in numerous articles and blogs. GMA then featured my story on “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” which would lead to tv and radio appearances, acting stints, interviews, article features, and other guestings almost everyday for the next couple months. I eventually realised you could make a living from youtube and get paid through advertisements. Having this newly found confidence and after doing research of the current Pinoy YouTubers, I believed that Youtube is where I could excel as I had so many ideas and plans for all the videos I wanted to create. Realistically I had a better chance of becoming a top YouTuber rather than becoming a leading man or major artista. With YouTube, I was on my own time, I was my own boss with 100% creative freedom, and I was in control of my future. More than anything there was a sense of security in that with YouTube, you only get paid more and more every single year, with limitless opportunities. In showbiz, the conditions are tough (no sleep) and very few people make a lot of money as even less are able to continue into their later years. Once you reach your 30s, better yet 40s, it is not so easy to get work.
AL: Did you ever have a moment where you realized "this is my passion, I want to do this for as long as I can"?
WD: The very first 2 videos I ever created went viral (1 on YouTube the other on Facebook) so from the beginning, I knew that I had a knack for knowing what people found entertaining. I then took a 6 month hiatus from youtube as i worked on my series “The Art of Tagalog,” and this was the big test that would confirm or deny if I really knew how to make entertaining content. When the series went viral following tv/radio features, interviews, teleserye roles, positive responses, and everything else that came along with it, I had the confidence to continue what I was doing and I wanted to focus all my attention on creating videos. In the simplest terms, entertaining was my passion which I realized when I started commercial modeling and acting. It was a matter of finding the platform that would allow me to showcase my talents - Youtube.
AL: You often get recognized wherever you go because of your "Beki" videos, you hit 100K+ subscribers - Congratulations!! and you also recently uploaded videos of your experience at YouTube fan fest, which were truly amazing to watch; How are you taking in all of this success and how does it make you feel to know that all of your hard work is an inspiration to so many?
WD: Everything has been such a surreal experience and it never really sinks in because I remember dreaming about these moments but never knew if they would actually become a reality one day. To be able to inspire others is the most fulfilling thing about being a YouTuber and having the chance to share my ideas, thoughts, and values with thousands of people is truly a blessing. I just want to make a difference and have a positive influence on peoples lives whether its in the form of entertainment or through informative dialogue. But come to think of it, I feel like it is my duty to pay it forward as I have been heavily inspired and influenced by American Youtuber Casey Neistat, and part of my intention when I began daily vlogging was to have this same effect, but on the filipino community. As a youtuber/entertainer, you come to realize you mostly do it for the viewers because making other people happy is ultimately what makes myself happy.
AL: You've captured many great adventures and memories so far that you've shared with the world, what ONE video would you say is your favorite and why?
WD: My favorite video changes every week haha but the one with the biggest impact on my life definitely was that “Pudra & Kyota” video. I spent more than a year thinking/writing about the idea, learning the language, and counted on it to be the viral video that would jumpstart my career as a YouTuber. I think that video is a perfect representation of how content is king and how YouTube is a true example of a meritocracy. That video is stilll my most seen video with over 2 million views on Facebook and it was made using an iPhone 4 and iPhone 5! It doesn't matter how much nice equipment, money, or power you have. As long as you are motivated, ambitious, and have a creative idea, you can go far. This is the power of the internet and Youtube, everyone has a voice and an equal opportunity to succeed!
AL: With your playlists of videos like "The Art of Tagalog" and "Wil's World" what else can your followers expect from you and your channel?
WD: You can expect more travel vlogs as I showcase the different beautiful parts of the Philippines and eventually explore different countries as well! The most exciting thing however, is my second series following the AOT series, “A Day with the Dasos” which is made up of skits and goofy videos about my family. All three of my family members (Haley, Mom, and Pudra) each have their own viral videos and seem to be the favourite characters of my vlog. So any video with them is bound to be a riot! ;P
AL: What message do you have for your fans who wish to follow in your foot steps and go after their dreams?
WD: The biggest thing holding me back from doing anything and everything I ever wanted to do was fear and fear itself. I wanted to do YouTube for a while but I was too afraid of what other people would think. To combat fear you must face it and build your confidence. Step out of your comfort zone and continue to do something new that you haven't before. Do the things you fear because its the only way to get over them. Through modeling and vlogging, I overcame my fear of being camera shy. Through hosting, I overcame public speaking (I am still terrified of public speaking but I do it anyway because it makes me stronger). To combat my fear of heights I do cliff jumping and zip-lining. There is no other such empowering feeling then conquering your fears and doing something you think you initially can't. If you truly want to succeed you cant be afraid failure because the only time you truly fail is the moment you stop trying. (HUWAW! …feeling inspirational! haha)
AL: Lastly, you obviously have shared so much of your life with your viewers, but can you give us 5 Fun Facts that no one knows about you?
WD: 1. I was a merchant marine working on massive cargo ships when I was only 16 years old. 2. I've been to about 15 countries. 3. I have abnormally elastic skin. 4. I love pigs and want my own for a pet. 5. I’ve never been in love…huwaw hugot… haha ay naku :P