TAGS: darna, jane de leon, starstudio

Photography: Stephen Capuchino

 

When news broke that she had been cast to portray the iconic role of Darna, many were suddenly curious about the identity of the newcomer actress that is Jane de Leon.

Stories trying to piece her life background together based on past articles and her own social media accounts surfaced left and right—and they did reveal a lot about the 20-year-old, such as how she hails from San Pedro, Laguna, forayed into the modeling scene at an early age, and, after formally beginning her career as an actress in 2013, has starred in shows like La Luna Sangre, Wansapanataym, and, her most recent yet, Halik

But who she is beyond the glitz and glamor of show business remained largely unanswered—at least, until now.  

In her first and exclusive full-length interview, Jane opens herself up to the public as she shares never-before-heard stories from her childhood and personal life. 

 

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

Jane, whose real name is Jane Florence Benitez de Leon, had many good memories from her “simple life” in Laguna, where she grew up in the presence of her parents, Hearty and Ruel, and an older brother, Francis. 

Photo from Jane De Leon

“Typical parents” is how Jane fondly describes her mom and dad, only—and she’s being honest—they could get very strict and overprotective. “My parents were very strict,”  she shares. “Like, I needed to sneak out pa to be with my friends, para makapag-laro sa kalsada ng tumbang preso, habul-habulan, at luksong baka.”

But this is understandable—for some parents, natural, even—given that Jane is the youngest of the De Leon brood. Apart from her kuya Francis, she has four other half-siblings from her father’s side: Karen, Carol, Kirox, and Ned. “I’m the youngest. Kaya bantay sarado ako,” she shares in jest.

Photos from Jane De Leon

Though she is closest to her older brother, Jane describes her relationship with the other four as similarly tight-knit. “We’re all close. The good thing with us, kahit half-sisters, half-brothers ko sila, para kaming [buong] magkakapatid talaga. Close din sila kay Mama. Happy kami.”

One of her favorite memories from childhood is spending the holidays surrounded by her family. For one, her father bustling away in the kitchen every Christmas Eve is still a vivid image for Jane. “Si Daddy, siya lagi ‘yung... kapag naghahanda, hindi siya ‘yung mga typical na pagkain. It’s his own recipes talaga,” she says. 

Photo from Jane De Leon

Unlike her soft, feminine image now, Jane is admittedly pretty tomboy—doing what are traditionally considered to be things that boys enjoy—when she was little. “Noong bata pa ako, mas gusto ko ‘yung mga laruang panlalaki kaysa mga pambabae,” she shares.

Photos from Jane De Leon

Like most probinsyanas, showbiz was a reality she had not expected to live as a child, either. Instead, Jane grew up wanting to become a doctor or a soldier.

 

LIFE AS A STUDENT

Though she didn’t end up down that path, her self-discipline, motivation, and persistence—all traits essential for both professions—manifested in her life in more ways than one, particularly during her time as a student.

“Yeah, of course,” says Jane when asked whether she enjoyed being in school.

Half of her time in grade school, she spent studying in San Roque Elementary School, a public school in Laguna. The other half was in Sampaguita Elementary School, where she transferred after she and her family were forced to relocate as one of the thousands affected by the aftermath of supertyphoon Ondoy sometime in September 2009.

As a student, Jane would describe herself as “super active”. “Lahat ng school activities sinasalihan ko and focused ako sa studies,” she says.

Photos from Jane De Leon

That is, until she entered show business and had to balance her studies with her acting career at the age of 15. “At first, it was really hard for me because I really love my work and I love my studies,” she says.

Kaya sabi ko kay Mommy na, ‘Ma, paano ako magfo-focus?’ Ayaw kong sabihin na nawala ‘yung studies ko. Sabihin na lang natin na nawalan ako ng time for that because of my work and because of my schedule,” adds Jane, who, at that time, had already found a new home for herself in Quezon City to get closer to work. 

Photos from Jane de Leon on Instagram (@imjanedeleon)

But giving up her studies was not an option. “When it comes to studying kasi, mas focused talaga ako dun,” she explains. Despite the challenges of being a working student, Jane was determined to finish her high school studies.

Thus, knowing that it would be impossible for her to attend school while simultaneously attending to her job, she ended up taking home study programs. “Sinabi ko kay mommy na, ‘Mom no matter what happens, kailangan ko pong maka-graduate.’ Dumating sa point na while I'm doing my job na, [noong] nagte-taping na ako and shooting, gumagawa ako ng way para makapag-aral ako,” she shares.

In April last year, Jane finally fulfilled her dreams of finishing school through the Alternative Learning System or ALS. In an Instagram post, she shares that she was supposed to graduate earlier, and was only five months away from accomplishing high school when work suddenly interfered. “But I did not stop to pursue that dream and one day, I’m gonna make it. At ito na nga 'yun,” shares Jane, who dedicates this particular achievement to her mother. “What made me happy was when I saw  my Mom’s smile dahil ito talaga ang gusto niya: ang makita akong naka-toga.”

Photos from Jane de Leon on Instagram (@imjanedeleon)


A MAJOR BUMP IN THE ROAD

However, it wasn’t a simple story of perseverance and hardwork, as Jane, prior to graduating, had to deal with the painful death of her father, Ruel.

Recalling the most challenging phase of her life, Jane says her father suddenly became distant and aloof at the time that he was dealing with cancer, unbeknownst to the whole family.

Photo from Jane de Leon

“[When I found out], sabi ko, ‘Ito na ba 'yun, Lord?’ I prayed to Him na sana maka-survive pa ‘yung dad ko. Hindi naman sa sinabi ko na I don't have any hope na gagaling siya, pero sa 'kin, ‘Lord, kayo nakaka-alam kung anong makakabuti sa father ko. Ang importante na-save mo siya.’ Ayoko ring mahirapan na siya,” she adds.

Looking back, Jane says she used to be afraid of her father, who she describes as “scary”, as a child. “Pinapalo niya ako, takot ako sa kanya. He's so scary, but nung lumaki ako I just realized that he's doing that for us, he's doing that for me para maging better person ako.”

A proud “papa’s girl”, Jane shares that she had learned a lot from her dad—mostly practical tips she can carry with her for the rest of her life—when he was still alive. “Natutunan ko sa kanya to be organized, [manage my time wisely], and use my money wisely. Never kong makakalimutan ‘yun hanggang pagtanda ko,” she says.

“Even though my dad is scary, pure pa rin 'yung heart niya,” adds Jane of her father. “And kahit strict siya, mafi-feel mo na mahal ka talaga niya kaya I love my dad so much.”

Following his death, Jane says she only cried and let her emotions out for one day, specifically, on the day of her dad’s cremation. “I just cried and let it out. Binuhos ko na lang lahat ng iyak ko but after that sabi ko, I need to be strong for my family. And I know that he is in a better place. He’s happy na and he's with God.”

Photo from Jane de Leon on Instagram (@imjanedeleon)

This bravery and resolve rare of a 20-year-old is exactly what sets Jane apart from the rest.

And, unbeknownst to her, her life is about to transform even more soon after, when she is suddenly ushered by fate to ready her wings and armor… because she would be facing what could be the biggest challenge of her life—as one truly legendary superhero.

 

Art Director: Alfred Amado

Styling: Cathleen Sobrevega

Makeup: Denise Go Ochoa

Hair: Jaymar Lahaylahay

Styling Assistant: Riri Reverano

Photographer’s Assistant: Miggy Broño

Editorial Assistant: Sheena Pangco

Special thanks: Hearty de Leon, Francis de Leon, and Star Magic