They’re no strangers to fame, but basketball celebrity Doug Kramer and actress-TV host Cheska Garcia-Kramer found that, contrary to the expected downslide that most showbiz couples experience after settling down, family life has not dimmed their appeal to the general public.
In fact, judging from the number of their Facebook likes and Instagram followers, the Kramer family has become a virtual cottage industry and successful social media enterprise.
But the Petron Blaze Boosters player and the former commercial model have also accepted that they now play supporting roles to the latest stars of their ongoing reality show. Siblings Kendra, Scarlett and Gavin Kramer, all under 5, have grabbed top billing in Team Kramer, the name coined by loyal followers for the family’s online persona.
What started as the couple’s way of staying connected to friends and family through their Instagram accounts, @dougkramer44 and @chekakramer, inadvertently became the key to the family’s newfound popularity.
Until people started following their posts, the Kramer couple would share photos of their three kids “because we found them cute or amusing,” says Cheska. It was also a way of keeping friends and family updated about us, she adds.
But the young Kramers proved too irresistible and soon enough, their photogenic antics became a hit.
Arguably, their most famous video is that of Scarlett pretending to sleep after picking a fight with older sister Kendra. Their mother’s famous words, “Scarlett, what did you do to your ate?” continue to draw in likes and shares months after the original incident was posted on Cheska’s Instagram account.
It does not matter what photos or videos are posted by the couple, be it Kendra wanting to drink wine to feel like an adult, or Gavin trying to feed some costumed figurines. Any form of content on the Kramers’ account is guaranteed to have at least 10,000 likes and thousands of shares.
One thing is certain: People can’t get enough of the young Kramers.
In fact, in less than four months since Doug created the Team Kramer fan page on Facebook, it has gathered more than 430,000 followers, a number significantly greater than Doug’s 180,000 followers and Cheska’s 320,000 followers on Instagram.
“When we started the Facebook fan page, we used our Instagram accounts to promote it,” Doug recalls. Now, it’s the other way around, he adds. The Team Kramer fan page has become a platform to feature their Instagram posts.
Proof of social media’s power is the fact that people instantly recognize the three younger Kramers when the family steps out, says Doug. In fact, he adds, the fans don’t even know that the parents are themselves celebrities in their own right, he adds.
Doug, 30, rose to prominence playing power forward for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, while Cheska, 33, actress, host and commercial model, started with the youth-oriented show “Ang TV” in the ‘90s, and was one of the hosts of the defunct lifestyle magazine show, “Us Girls.”
Clair Kendra, 4, is known to her fans as #Kendrasuperstar, a nickname Cheska created one day when she realized that more and more people wanted to have their photos taken with her daughter, “just like (she’s) a superstar.”
Kendra even has her own fan base, says the proud mom, adding that fans call themselves the “Kendranatics.”
Fans of Scarlett Louvelle, 2, or #Scarlettdoll, call their group “Scarlett Fever,” says Cheska.
Gavin Phoenix, 11 months, the couple’s youngest, uses the hashtag #Gavincredible, a result of the Kramer couple inviting the boy’s fans to suggest a nickname for him. In just an hour after they called on fans for help, 300 nicknames immediately flooded their page, says his mother.
But being too young, the Kramer kids probably don’t have any idea or think too much of their emerging stardom, says Doug, although Cheska makes it a point to read Kendra the letters and messages they receive on Facebook and Instagram.
The parents admit to being amazed at their children’s popularity and at how observant the fans are. “They notice everything,” says Cheska, adding that questions about their kids’ toys, cribs, food and clothes constantly appear on their fan page’s news feed and inbox.
The page also receives up to 3,000 messages a day, she says, adding that the messages include queries from single women raising children on their own, asking tips on fashion, weight loss and parenting.
Aside from their kids’ antics, Team Kramer’s wholesome and family-centric image also adds to their appeal, says Cheska. Fans, some of them from Europe and the Middle East, appreciate how the Kramers can be an inspiration “at a time, when a lot of people take marriage so lightly,” she adds.
A big percentage of their following is composed of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) around the world, says Doug, who notes that a common thread of loneliness and yearning for their families dominate the messages they send.
Their OFW fans would tell them: “You know, I’m all alone here and my family’s there in the Philippines, but when I look at your [family’s] Facebook account, I don’t feel homesick anymore.”
So huge is their following that early last month, Team Kramer was named Rookie of the Year by blog advertiser Nuffnang Philippines in its 2013 Nuffie Awards.
The Rookie is described as “an upcoming online influencer, with a blog or social media account less than 12 months old, (that has) a strong potential to sway and charm the online world.”
The family’s potential “to sway the online world” was tested in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” when Team Kramer was among the celebrity families who encouraged fellow Filipinos to donate in cash and in kind to the victims.
The Kramers also initiated a petition for Makati Medical Center to set up a mobile hospital in any of the provinces affected by the supertyphoon. Two days after posting the link to the Change.org petition on their page, at least 11,000 people pledged their support. Today, there are at least 15,000 signatures on the petition.
There is, however, a price that the Kramers have to pay for the fame and recognition: the loss of privacy.
It’s an issue that they’ve been addressing by being more careful with the photos they post on Facebook and Instagram, says Doug, adding that they make sure that the façade of their house is never photographed lest someone tries to track them down.
Breach of security is another concern that had them disabling the geo-tagging and location services on their smart phones and installing CCTV cameras inside the house.
Being judged by fans and lurkers has become an issue as well, with kibitzers butting in with their know-it-all advice on child-rearing.
“We post a simple picture and (people read too much into it),” says Doug, citing an instance when someone on Instagram accused the couple of spoiling their children with too many gifts.
He adds: “There was one time when I took a photo of Kendra wearing heels. SM had an event and gave us gift certificates, so we used these to buy the shoes. We got a comment—‘Hay naku… These parents don’t know what they’re doing, making a kid wear heels.’ ”
He simply deletes the negative posts, he says.
The couple has also been accused of favo-ritism, pointing out that Kendra has more photos than her two other siblings.
The idea is absurd, says Cheska. “What they don’t know is that when I shop for [my kids], I always make sure they get the same number of items. If I get five things for Gavin, I’ll get five for Kendra, and another five for Scarlett.”
“Sometimes I tell Doug, ‘You know, it gets so tiring to read these negative things,’” says Cheska, “but he tells me, ‘Don’t feel bad, you know we’re not like that. That’s not how we raise our children.’ ”
When Doug and Cheska exchanged “I do’s” on Oct. 9, 2008, friends and family remarked how “perfect” the two were for each other. But like most couples, the Kramers don’t always share the same viewpoint. Not when it comes to their kids entering showbiz, for one.
Cheska, who started in the biz at a young age, says she is open to the idea. “I don’t want the children to grow up curious [about show business and not be able to try it]. If they have the talent, why not?”
But Doug would rather that the kids focus on their studies. A daily reality show featuring the family is similarly out of the question. He’s “not really comfortable with three or four cameras following us every day and watching our every move,” he says.
Not that paparazzi would find anything unusual about the Kramer household. They’re just like any other family, says Cheska, adding that she’s very much a hands-on mom, something she picked up from her own mother.
“I prepare [my children’s] clothes. I bathe them. I ask the helpers how everything is, if there is anything that’s needed. I go through their cabinets. I try and check their stuff. I’m the type of mom who tells them, ‘Oh, watch your manners. Sit like a lady. Why are you talking that way? Talk properly!’” she says.
Chores are very important, she adds. In fact, one video in their Instagram and Facebook pages shows Kendra picking up her toys in the playroom. Another photo shows Cheska teaching Scarlett how to use a vacuum cleaner.
For Doug, toughening up one’s kids is important. He cannot stand it when parents baby their children, he says. “When kids fall, typical Filipino style is to pick them up and baby them. Me? No. When they fall down, I let them pick themselves up. I let them cry. When they hit themselves [and each other], I make them understand the mistake they did so they won’t do it again.”
In fact, he thinks it’s so important for children to learn from their mistakes that he wouldn’t balk at spanking them. He points out however that “Before the spanking session, (parents) have to explain why.”
He adds: “I (also) make sure that by the time the disciplining session is over, they leave the room smiling. We always reconcile by hugging, kissing and by us telling them that we love them.”
For the couple, it is very important that Kendra, Scarlett and Gavin are aware of how much their parents love them, and that the three kids see how much their parents love each other.
Because at the end of the day, Team Kramer is just like any other family, albeit one with a protective and growing online fan base.
”It’s as if we have a soap opera,” says Cheska, who adds that when Team Kramer gets recognized in public, Doug would joke, “May show ka?’”
And she would respond in kind: “May show tayo?” •