Young actress Dawn Jimenez is a true-blue Southern belle.
Just like Trina, the troubled character she played in Gino M. Santos’ “The Animals,” Jimenez lives in a three-story home in a posh, gated community somewhere in Muntinlupa.
She gleefully remarks that she most probably bagged the role because she’s also from the south like young director Santos.
“Gino and I weren’t schoolmates in high school, but we move in the same circles,” she relates. “We met at a party through a common friend.”
Curiously, “The Animals” depicts Manila’s self-absorbed and self-destructive youth scene— zits and all, unflinchingly exposing the futility of the drug-addled and alcohol-fueled existence of some privileged teenagers.
“It merely shows what’s happening today. Things are worse now compared to my high-school days. Now, kids as young as 13 are allowed to party unsupervised,” says Dawn, a senior
Culinary Arts student at De La Salle College of St. Benilde.
So how did she survive those dangerous, rebellious teen years?
She considers herself a “late bloomer” compared to her peers.
“I hated partying,” she owns up.
She was not into clubbing, either, and would rather sleep or shop when she’s not busy with school or show biz.
“Kids should be careful when going out,” she counsels fellow youngsters.
Shooting the rape scene was traumatic, she recalls. “Direk Gino didn’t introduce to me to (character actor) Raul Morit, who played the rapist. I had no idea what would happen… After the scene was shot, I kept crying.”
She is thankful for the part, however.
Best new actress nod
“The Animals,” an entry in last year’s Cinemalaya fest, was a breakthrough film for Jimenez, who was nominated for best new actress in two award-giving bodies: the movie press’ Star and Golden Screen.
Moreover, “The Animals” led to another high-profile movie, Erik Matti’s “On the Job,” which was shown in the Directors’ Fortnight of the Cannes International Film Festival last May.
“I auditioned for it,” she looks back. “I casually mentioned to Direk Erik that I did ‘The Animals.’ He got curious and requested for a screener from our producer.”
After seeing her work, Matti swiftly cast Jimenez as Gerald Anderson’s waitress-girlfriend in the action thriller.
She shared a steamy scene with Anderson in “On the Job” which, she says, provides ample proof of her determination to be regarded as a serious actress.
“It was intense. I thought of the love scene in (the Hollywood movie) ‘The Notebook.’ Direk Erik reminded us that our characters had been separated for a long time and were passionately in love with each other,” she explains.
The film required Jimenez to bare not just her soul, but her body as well. “Luckily, I was paired with Gerald in that scene. He was a professional … a complete gentleman. He made sure to make small talk to make me feel at ease.”
She was initially apprehensive that she would be branded a bold star because of that sultry scene.
“We had to consider a lot of things. My handlers in Star Magic and my manager Becky Aguila thought long and hard about it. But in the end, we knew it would be a good move for me,” she says.
When she finally saw the scorching hot sequence, she was stunned but not speechless. “My mom and I kept gasping at the sneak preview. It was as if I was watching someone else.”
According to the grapevine, Matti plans to cast Jimenez in a major film soon. He affectionately calls Jimenez, “my star.”
She declares, “I want to be known as an actress who can do anything—whether it’s a telenovela or an indie film… a romantic-comedy or a sexy drama.”
Her big dream is to top-bill a zombie movie.
(She used to go by her real name Dawn Balagot, but switched to mom’s maiden name Jimenez for its recall.)
She failed to join Matti, Anderson, Joel Torre, Piolo Pascual, Rayver Cruz and the rest of the “On the Job” team in Cannes last May, although she would’ve wanted to. She was also in France, though, at that time, for a three-week course in molecular gastronomy at Institut Polytechnique Lasalle Beauvais.
“The school is north of Paris, far from Cannes. The school didn’t allow me to attend the film fest,” she says.
She picked up modern cooking techniques in France. “I didn’t know you can make gourmet dishes with a microwave oven. For example, if you’re in a rush, you can bake duck breast in a microwave and the color, texture and taste would be just as good … as if it was prepared the traditional way.”
The budding chef is a whiz in the kitchen and considers desserts her specialty.
With mom’s help, she sold cupcakes through her Instagram account last year. “But we had to give up our cupcake business because we couldn’t cope with the orders from our friends,” she admits.
The spiffy kitchen and the elegant dining area are not Jimenez’s favorite corners in the family home. even though she confesses, “When I’m free from work, all I do is eat and rest.”
Since the family moved to this subdivision five years ago, she has grown accustomed to life in sleepy suburbia.
“It’s not that faraway from the city. It’s accessible… just 15 minutes away from the airport and the malls,” she points out.
She feels safe in this neighborhood, which likewise counts other celebrities like Derek Ramsay and Anne Curtis as home owners.
“Patrick Sugui, who played my brother in ‘The Animals,’ lives in the same area,” she says.
At night, she enthuses, “It’s very cool here. It must be because of the breeze from Laguna de Bay. We even have pine trees here.”
The home’s fa¢ade adheres to the village’s American country motif, but the interiors are modern and Asian-inspired.
With the help of interior designer Joanne Lazaro, mom Joy spruced up the house, which stands on a 559 square-meter property.
“My mom kept changing the sofa until she found one that my father liked,” Dawn reports.
The centerpiece in the living room is a grandfather clock, one of the few pieces retained from their old house in Quezon City.
Most of the pieces are mall finds, but some are souvenirs from trips abroad, says mom Joy.
The refrigerator is studded with magnets from all over the world: France, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States.
Scattered all over the living room are framed pictures of the young actress, her parents Joy and Jofred and siblings Alfred Beau, Alfred Kyle, Alexis Marie and Alyssa Marie.
She’s a loving big sister to her younger siblings, Dawn insists. “It can get crazy having five kids under one roof,” she concedes. “It can be stressful. But we’re close and I love all of them.”
Her favorite nook is her bedroom, of course. It’s on the top floor and exudes the vibe of an artist’s hip loft. The walls are painted orange and black.
The bed is a burst of vibrant colors, too. Sheer orange fabric hangs over the bed, like a modish canopy. A multihued, heart-shaped clock adorns the wall.
“It’s soothing. I feel relaxed in my room,” Jimenez says of her private nook. “But it’s very rock ’n’ roll, too.”
And it’s not just because of the violet bass guitar displayed in one corner.
On one wall is a retro painting of a guitar and amplifier. In an adjacent corner, a bar code is emblazoned on a wall.
“I got the idea when I visited Rustan’s department store,” she says. “The wall would look plain and dull without the art works.”
The rocker theme is consistent with her passion for edgy music.
“From 2009 to 2010, I was the bassist of a rock band called Airport Drama,” she says. “I was the only girl in the group.”
The band gig led to the TV5 show “Rakista.”
Prior to the rock stint, she was a model and a member of Club Pen, teen endorsers of clothing label Penshoppe.
A framed print ad of Club Pen is displayed in her room, along with a stack of books—ranging from Michael Scott’s “The Secret of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” to E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Gray.”
In the comfort of her bedroom, she’s either reading books or watching movies.
She’s a big horror fan.
“I loved the Thai film ‘Shutter,’” she says. “We saw ‘The Conjuring’ recently. It wasn’t that scary for me.”
She likewise surfs the Net on her MacBook in her spare time.
A huge mirror occupies a whole wall in the bedroom— which can be pretty useful when she’s dressing and dolling up.
Her clothes and accessories are stored in cabinets and closets in the bedroom. An entire room downstairs was converted into a walk-in shoe closet.
While mom Joy did the interiors, dad Jofred took charge of the garden’s landscaping, with landscape artist Danny Santiago.
There used to be a pond in the garden, but dad vetoed it, explaining that it might attract dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
The wooden garden swing is a choice spot for family photos.
She proudly claims she is dad’s pet.
“I’m daddy’s girl. I may be the oldest, but I’m still his baby,” she says. “I won’t give up my crown anytime soon.”
True enough, parked in front of the house is a blue two-seater BMW Z3, a gift from dad on her 18th birthday.
Who needs a boyfriend with a handsome car like that?
“Yeah, it’s gorgeous,” she says, smiling.
As bonus, it’s a good bet that, unlike a boyfriend, the BMW will not give her headaches.
But that’s another story.