FABIO Ide makes a pretty good impression of the usual reaction to his first name.
For those who’ve never idled their time browsing bookstore shelves in the ’80s and ’90s, the Brazilian- Japanese (Brapanese in the current lingo) model and showbiz personality shares a giggle-inducing first name with Fabio Lanzoni, the golden-locked Italian model who was the cover model for books with titles like Fate’s Forest of Feeling, Scandalous Love, and Wild Scottish Embrace (on the blurb: “She risked her lifelong dream for one rapturous caress”).
Ide explains how he came to be Fabio: “One of my father’s best friends was an Italian guy named Fabio. He gave me that name as a sign of respect for his best friend. He wasn’t even aware of the famous model with long blond hair, and, of course, he didn’t know I would grow up to eventually become a model myself.”
But just like his chest-baring namesake, Ide kicked o his career by banking on physical attributes that inspire rapturous cover blurbs in sleazy paperbacks, and which Brazilian personalities in the business are celebrated for.
Locally, this celebration has paved the way for the rise of the Brap Pack, whose other members include former Men’s Health cover guys Daniel Matsunaga and Hideo Muraoka.
It’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, and Ide is a textbook specimen of its success, transitioning from one industry to the next with chameleonic precision and honing a skill set to thrive in endeavors outside the realm of “looking amazing in front of the camera.”
But what makes Braps like him such a hit on our shores? Is it their fusion of Latin and Asian cultures? Is it their physicality? Is it their inclination to carve themselves a home in our tropical country? Or is it simply because they just look good? To fi nd out, we peruse the pages of Fabio Ide’s own book.
The Philippines and Brazil share a history that dates back more than 500 years, when Portugal and Spain divided the world into two. While we came to be colonized by Spain, Brazil and our own archipelago were both on Portugal’s side of the globe; Portugal belatedly renounced its claim, mostly because the Spaniards were already quite settled in. “We have very similar history,” says Nykó Macá, a capoeira instructor at Escola Brasileira de Capoeira and a performer of Brazilian music.
“At the core of Brazil, [they are] a Third World country. They have the same challenges socially, politically, economically, and culturally as us.” At present, there around 300 Brazilian nationals living in the Philippines, with most working, according to the Brazilian embassy, as missionaries or models.
“They’re exotic. When they talk, they have their accent,” comments Macá, explaining the models’ appeal to the fairer sex. (We don’t know about the missionaries, though.) But more than that, Macá thinks it’s the Brazilians’ work ethic that allows them to conquer runways and Men’s Health covers: “They know that the potential for them to make a career here is way bigger than they would ever have in Brazil—with the competition they’re facing there—so they take the good opportunity, and they put the hard work behind it.”
In Ide’s case, the opportunity came practically by accident. It was his two sisters who were first approached by a modeling agent at a mall in their hometown of São Paulo. Ide had just quit law school, and was then chipping away toward a degree in Marketing. “But the next day [after that mall meeting], I ended up going to the guy who had approached my sisters,” he says. His family is half-Brazilian and half-Japanese, a mix he believes to be fundamental to his personality.
He credits his father, a dentist and ex-army man from Japan, with instilling in him the concept of discipline. “My Japanese father is very humble, hardworking, and smart,” shares Ide. “With him, it was always when you wake up, you have to make your own bed. When you eat, you need to wash your own plate. When it came to my sisters, no matter what happens, I’m the kuya so I need to protect them—small reminders that made me a better man, a better person.”
An early lesson from his father still sticks to this day: Until you pay your own bills, don’t waste your water and electricity. “From my mother’s side, I think I get that Brazilian sweetness,” Ide continues. “My girlfriend says I’m very thoughtful and I like taking care of the people around me. I love gatherings and I love to party. That’s the Brazilian side: being happy, positive, and festive. Brazilians have this charisma and personality that most South Americans would describe as ‘caliente.’”
It’s a common stereotype that Brazilians are the carnaval of the party. Their fun-loving spirit is as much a trademark of their country as a pair of Havaianas or the gigantic statue of Cristo Redentor.
“Fundamentally, they just know how to enjoy life,” notes Macá. “They’re not shy to hide if they’re enjoying, and they like that to be contagious. They want to infect you with that feeling and that energy, and they take pride and pleasure in seeing you respond.”
MAKING THE MOVE
“The first time I came to the Philippines was in 2006,” recounts Ide. In Brazil, he’d already scored successful commercial work with Coca-Cola and Nokia. “I’ve been to 13 countries as a model and I was flying here back and forth, [but] among all the countries I had worked in, the Philippines felt like Brazil to me—a Brazil in Southeast Asia.”
He identifies a lot with our country because of “the vibe, the food, the religion, and even the weather.”
“It feels close to home,” he goes on. “Everything connects, and Filipinos have a way of making you feel part of the family. I realized I could live here and I feel good here.”
Constant work proved that Ide’s connection with the Philippines is a mutual one. Just take a look at his rapid ascent to stardom. To date, he has appeared in TV shows like GMA 7’s My Beloved, Ang Yaman ni Lola, and Coffee Prince, and films like Shake, Rattle and Roll 14, Ang Huling Henya, and, most recently, the Wynwyn Marquez indie starrer Flying Kiss.
To maintain his runway readiness, Ide tackles both nutrition and fitness with a hearty Latin gusto. “I always try to eat healthy,” he states. “I avoid eating carbs after 6 PM. I eat fruits and fish, drink a lot of water, and stay away from junk food.” He works out four times a week at the gym, and for cardio, he plays basketball, a sport his father used to play with him. “I used to play professional football, but I had to quit because I was getting hurt so much and I had to decide between football and showbiz,” he says.
“In the end, showbiz paid my bills. I couldn’t risk an injury. If I broke a leg or a bone on my face, that would be it.” On weekends when he can afford to leave Manila, he goes surfing in La Union and Zambales. Ide also attributes his toned physique and kinetic intelligence to practicing capoeira. This martial art is rooted in African dance, but it has a uniquely Brazilian twist—in the same way football was transformed into the transcendental plays of Pelé, and judo was molded, Gracie-style, into Brazilian jiujitsu.
“Capoeira is [not] just a martial art, but it’s actually also a dance. It’s a demonstration of art,” Ide explains. He further elaborates on its nuances: “If you do capoeira with a friend, you have to actually avoid hitting your opponent. So discipline comes in the form of the individual not simply using it as a martial art, but as a tool to control the mind, body, and soul. Of course, you can use it to hurt someone if you want to, but the discipline you can draw from it is great.”
Macá has been practicing capoeira for over 15 years, and as a musician, she likes to think of it as a performance. “It can also be a dance. And when you dance, you have a partner, and you want to be able to communicate,” she points out.
“When you make a move, you want your partner to follow you, and this can be just as effective in fighting. When you have the rhythm of your partner, then you can see the opening for the next move.” This next move, in her view, is usually a complete change in mind and body. “I personally like to explain it as one of the best educational and transformational tools,” she affirms. “It’s a really profound transformation for anybody.”
HERE TO STAY
About two years ago, an opportunity came for Ide to return to his native country. “My father had a dental client whose wife was a writer for the telenovelas in Brazil,” he remembers.
“They found out about me and she invited me back to Brazil to star in one of the shows. I was like, ‘Wow, this is the chance I’ve been waiting for.’” He didn’t take it, though.“It was tempting because it was in my home country and I could be with my family and my friends,” he concedes. “But for some reason, I felt that I needed to stay here.”
He ended up saying no, greatly disappointing his parents. For him, however, his path was already set. “I’ve done things for myself that before were just dreams written on a piece of paper,” he muses. “Like buying my own car. That’s, like, crazy for me. I felt that there was more I could do here in the Philippines.”
Part of this is his budding venture into entrepreneurship: He recently became part-owner of one of the hottest clubs in the metro, the sky-high 71 Gramercy run by Louie Ysmael and the other emperors of Manila nightlife. As many models are wont to do, “I used to party a lot and go to clubs,” Ide admits.
Turns out it would become on-the-job training for his current role—part of his 71 Gramercy duties is hosting the club’s popular models’ night every Wednesday. While Louie Y and company’s invitation may have been Ide’s personal sign that he has a natural gift for this latest undertaking, he’s still plenty nervous about it. The good thing is that his new partners are providing valuable entrepreneurship input.
“When I realized I have these traits that are beneficial for a business such as the one I am in right now, I used them. You have to get to know your personality and then apply it to whatever you are doing,” he says. It’s all part of his philosophy to create success in a new home on the other side of the world.
“No matter what you do, you need to focus in order to make it happen,” he stresses. “It’s all a matter of mental strength; if you think it, you can will it. Whatever you did in the past, you learn from it and you bring it to the now. Don’t carry the negative with you, but learn from it. I always try to bring everything I’ve learned to the present moment.”
With steady gigs, the growing popularity of 71 Gramercy, and a new project this month with a major television network, Ide believes that he right where he needs to be right now. “Kailangan ko pa tumagal dito,’ he declares, the Brazilian lilt still thick in his Filipino. “Kailangan ko makita kung ano ang mangyayari para sa akin. Sarap kasi ng buhay dito.”