The spring of Joyce Pring
Joyce Pring talks a lot. “Do I?” she asks facetiously. Joyce talking involves surprises. The first is that voice, syrupy and rich, striking and strong when she’s speaking, sinewy and sassy when singing. Her English is impeccable and crisp, something she’s become known for. The second are those words, tumbling out one after another, smart and sanguine, but always, all of it hers. She is balance and contradiction. She is the overproduced power ballad and the bare bones acoustic cover. She is the “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah nah nah” and the “Waaaa” in “Hey Jude.”
Let’s start with that name. Princess Joyce Pring “Princess” came from her grandmother, a name Joyce doesn’t feel suits her but a name she says she honors. “Joyce” came from her mother, a combination of “joy” and her mother’s initials, “CE” for Catherine Enaje. Her surname may sound familiar to you, and there’s a reason. Her biological father was the famous Manila cop Joe Pring, subject of the Philip Salvador biopic and unfortunately gunned down by an unknown assailant when Joyce was just over a year old. She was raised by her mother, a registered nurse, and her stepfather, graphic artist Chandro Uttamchandani; she refers to him as her dad.
She grew up very poor and ran wild in Tondo, where she lived with her grandmother and numerous cousins. She sometimes lived in another shanty, one along the train tracks (yes, along da riles) in Sta. Mesa. It was in Sta. Mesa when she was either 4 or 5 that she got the scar. She fell down the stairs and hit her head on a nail that was sticking out.
The scar is still there, running near up and down on her right eyebrow. “It’s deep,” she says, touching it lightly with her hand. But she’s not going to get rid of it. It’s only one of the scars Joyce bears, some chosen and some not. “I don’t want to change it. I actually like it. It’s a great conversation starter and I think it’s a great reminder of the kind of history and childhood I grew up in.”
After two years of public school, Joyce was moved to a private Christian school called Neo-Vision School thanks to her parents’ savings. It was at Neo-Vision that Joyce learned two aspects that proved crucial: how to be a relentless student, and how to speak English so well. “It’s because I learned it formally in school.” After Neo-Vision, Joyce went to the ultra-competitive Quezon City Science High School (yes, she is a true Kisay kid), before enrolling in fine arts at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2010, but not without a price. With her family going through financial difficulties, Joyce had to take on a BPO job as a copywriter to fund her studies.
Something that’s not surprising is that Joyce is a born performer. She was only 4 when she fell hard for the Mexican telenovela “Marimar” and would go on prolonged stints impersonating the lead character for anyone willing to watch. She would develop stage smarts and timing, thus leading naturally to becoming a good host for events.
She left the BPO job after four months. After one and a half years, Joyce left UP. She was 18 but never planned to become a celebrity. “I had no plan whatsoever,” she remembers. “I don’t think you can plan that thing. I just needed money and I need it easier and quicker than how I was getting it from a BPO. I knew what I was good at. It was being in front of people. When I tried out to be a VJ, I didn’t know how to be a host at all. I’m talkative but I’m not the type to talk to everybody.”
According to the dictionaries, the word “host” often means a person who is entertaining guests at an event. That’s the word most often connected to Joyce. Her big break as a host happened at the 2011 Myx VJ Search, which she won. Since then, she’s gone on to hosting stints for StarWorld (“Foodtrip”) and GMA-7 (“Eat Bulaga!”). She’d gathered a strong, new audience as a DJ on Magic 89.9. “Online, my turning point wherein I had more opportunities than when I was working in TV was ‘Tales from the Friendzone’ in 2012.” Her Twitter followers jumped tenfold in one year. She’s all over social media: Twitter (@joycepring), Facebook (JoycePringPage), Instagram (joycepring)and YouTube (#joycepringtv). The gateway to the Joyce Pring experience is her blog Joyce to the World (www.joycepring.com). After all, a “host” is also a system that holds information and spreads it to others.
She hosts a lot now in different places. “All Access” is an ongoing digital series from GMA that brings viewers behind the scenes of GMA-7 shows. But the big other thing is her being the cohost of the singing competition “The Clash” on GMA-7, what she considers her biggest break yet. “The Clash,” which features Regine Velasquez as the primary host and Andre Paras as cohost, premieres on primetime on July 7. “The Clash” is a dream for her; she’d like to host her own talk show some day. She’d obviously do well at that if she remembers to let her guests talk.
The word “host” can also mean having something symbiotic growing inside you. Joyce has dealt with that too. A word that’s often used to describe Joyce is “bubbly”—but what bubbles can also boil over. At 15, she thought of killing herself and slashed her left wrist. “It wasn’t a deep cut,” she admits. “Mom just had to bring me to the clinic for Tetanus shots.” “The darkest time of my recent life was two years ago, when I had supposedly a perfect life, perfect boyfriend, perfect career, perfect circumstance, but I felt empty inside,” she confesses. “I think that’s the worst, when you’re at the top of the world and you find out there’s nothing there that’s better than what was at the bottom.” She continues to struggle with her temper, something she says she’s gotten better at. “I’m a perfectionist and that perfectionism not only applies to me but to everyone around me,” she explains. “I hold people to a certain standard and when people don’t meet it, I’m easily discouraged and saddened, detached and angered. It comes from pride. Maybe it’s because I come from nothing and I feel like I always have to prove myself and everything has to be perfect for me to be OK. I’m only recently learning how to undo that.”
Joyce is an amplified presence. There’s a lot of the word “too” used to describe her, and always that conundrum of codifiers. She is both too “maton” and too “maarte.” She’s the eternal Tondo girl and glam millennial influencer. The interesting thing is that she doesn’t occupy a middle ground. She toggles back and forth between identities, from one extreme to another.
Joyce has never been shy about her dating life, as unusual as it is. The public got a good look at Joyce’s dating life when she dated fellow DJ Sam YG, a popular combination that ended last year. “I have been single for one year, one month and four days,” she states at the time of the interview; yes, she keeps track. There are articles about well Joyce and Sam got along as exes and colleagues—not a common thing. “Do I sometimes feel like I should be more mum about it? Yes, but I think that I still love Sam very much, but not in that sense anymore. I want people to understand that relationships are just like that sometimes, you gain so much affection and adoration for someone, and then you lose it. That doesn’t mean you lose the mutual respect and the love for the other person. I always think that love is the kind of thing that doesn’t dissipate but transforms and, for me, I want to live my life in that way… I’m single, ready for a commitment.”
Yes, she talks like this, all the time. She writes like this, too. Whenever she expresses herself, it’s in this unabashed, unapologetic manner, particularly if she’s discussing her views on romance or her ironclad Christian faith. She’d love to have a book someday. “I’m scared. I have so many insecurities and I’m so unsure of myself. Writing is such a huge passion of mine, as is the music and the travel. I feel so blessed because I have this platform (TV hosting) where I get to do everything at once.” She likes writing her own stuff, revising scripts she’s given. “They (the producers) trust me and let me talk on my own.”
She can sing—check out her “pringsings” series on YouTube, where she sings everything from the Beatles to Beyoncé. She’s fronted bands: STFU (It’s obvious what it really means, but she said it was “Save The Filipino Unicorn”), Mushroom Avenue and Group Hug. She’d love to do a single or an EP soon.
She’s done a ton of stuff. She’s dressed up as spaceman David Bowie one Halloween in New York. She’s done muay Thai, triathlons and driven racing cars. She wants to learn how to sky dive. She wants to start her own nonprofit (she already has a name for it: the Spring of Joy Foundation). Her impoverished childhood is what has pushed her to become an unflagging devotee of the cause of education for children: She is ambassador for the charity World Vision. Though she has no plans to finish her degree, it hasn’t stopped her from going back to school. She went to Somerville College at the University of Oxford to get a certificate in philosophy. Things have come full circle for Joyce as she returned to school literally when she was asked to give the commencement address at her grade school, Neo-Vision.
Something pioneering she’s done lately was lend her voice to the audiobook of Pierra Calasanz-Labrador’s second book of poems, “Dear Universe:Poems on Love, Longing, and Finding Your Place in the Cosmos,” Anvil Publishing’s first audiobook. She called the experience “intimidating and surreal.” “It’s one of those things you didn’t dream of doing and then all of the sudden, when people present it to you, you’re like, ‘I’ve always dreamed of doing that!’ That’s exactly how I felt.”
Listeners have noted that Joyce brought a clear context to the poems. She sounded like she knew: Hugot. “It just came out when I was doing the recording. The producers said, ‘we want Joyce’s voice because she sounds like someone who’s been through a lot and we want to bring these words to life.’ I think that’s true. I was just trying to rekindle emotions and memories inside of me that I already went through and buried deep in my heart and soul. I just let that speak.” She’d love to do audiobooks by Donna Tartt and Haruki Murakami. You can check out the “Dear Universe” audiobook at digital.anvilpublishing.com/books/dear-universe-audiobook.
Joyce’s own universe is easily reflected in her tattoos, all 13 of them; her management isn’t crazy about them. She got her first tattoo on her hip at 17 from her 33-year-old boyfriend at the time who happened to be a tattoo artist. There’s a Hokusai wave print on her left wrist, right next to the scars. Her right arm says, “be still,” taken from The Book of Psalms. The biggest tattoo runs across her back, almost shoulder to shoulder: “Semper fidelis ad infinitum,” Latin for “always faithful to the infinite.” That universe is opening up fast. She only got her passport for the last four years but has been traveling up a storm: Her favorites are New York and Edinburgh. She’d love to go to Rome, Nice, Egypt and other places in the Philippines.
Does she think about how many people pay attention to what she says or writes? “All the time. Sometimes I don’t even take seriously how seriously they take what I talk about or write about,” she says. “I don’t really like the fanfare. Idolatry makes me feel uneasy, but I like it because I have a captive audience.”
She’s not cut out to be an artista though she has acted in the web series “Sabagay Life.” “I’m a terrible actor,” she says. “It’s not among my top priorities.” This is one of the things her handler Rona Baguio-Fernandez shakes her head at, the many things Joyce has turned down. Rona works for Vidanes Artist Management, which comanages Joyce with GMA Artist Center. Rona lives daily around the fact that Joyce does what Joyce wants.
“I like imperfections, as cliché as that sounds,” Joyce says. “I like being imperfect and I like people to know that the people they ‘look up to’ have imperfections. Candor is of utmost value, something I get from my dad. I get into so much trouble because I’m honest and spontaneous, but I’d rather have that trouble because that’s being me.” Aside from her candor, Joyce ultimately values her compassion the most. “It’s always what I aim for. I’m not sure if I’m compassionate enough to be identified by it, but it’s my top priority, and I want it to be my main character trait the older I get.”
This then is the spring of Joyce Pring. At 25, she sees one life stretching out behind her, another one out ahead. “If I’m being completely honest, I’m more scared of how I’m going to respond to all this and everything that will eventually unfold, because everything that will be coming I can never control. But what I can control is my response toward them and there’s so much work in me that I have to do to become the woman I can be proud of. Now I’m just preparing to become a woman of substance.” Keep talking, Joyce Pring, keep talking.
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