Monday, October 30, 2006


"We belong together" by Nina

credits: WINNIEMD

Friday, October 6, 2006


Nina performing "Constantly"

Sunday, October 1, 2006


Cover Story
The R ‘n’ B princess is now a queen
By Eric S. Caruncho

LET it not be said that Nina is not a trouper.

Though running a fever—in fact, coming straight from an emergency visit to her doctor—she decided to go on with the Sunday Inquirer shoot, before proceeding to a club date that night where she sang a full one-hour set to a packed crowd of enthusiastic fans.

As the makeup artist did his magic, transforming tiny Marifil Nina Girado into Nina, slinky soul siren, for some reason the words to “This Girl Has Turned Into A Woman,” a particularly cheesy disco-era chestnut by one-hit wonder Mary MacGregor, popped into my head—further evidence of the kind of lasting damage inflicted by enforced listening to “the mellow touch” in jeepneys, waiting rooms and massage parlors.

Anyway, in the song

, Mary (actually a two-hit wonder: she also did the equally saccharine “Torn Between Two Lovers”) is gushingly grateful to the lover who has just popped her cherry, and as she sings the final line “and I thank you, for your tenderness last night…” an image of Nina with her current beau Nyoy Volante pops into my head…

Argh. Erase, erase.

Non-stop validation

Actually, Nina agrees, this girl has turned into a woman. And not in the way you think.

“Pwede,” she says.

When I first interviewed her in early 2003, she was a shy 22-year-old who looked all of 14, still giddy with the success of her first album “Heaven.” Today, the shyness has been replaced with the kind of confidence that only comes with experience, maturity, non-stop validation from an adoring fan base and multi-platinum album sales that her rivals in the pop/R ‘n’ B sweepstakes can only envy.

We are in Nina’s tastefully-furnished bedsit condominium, perfectly scaled to its owner’s diminutive proportions and at the moment bursting at the seams with the equipment and entourage that come with a magazine photo shoot: lights, camera, two photographers, one writer, one makeup artist, Nina’s mother, sister, manager and four other people. Meanwhile, the FEU-San Beda game is blasting from the big-screen TV and three of Nina’s four cats are scampering under or climbing over the furniture. At the center of all this chaotic activity, Nina remains perfectly calm and composed, perhaps a little zonked from the cold medicine.

“’Yung first album ko, madami pa ang nakataas ang kilay, parang hindi ko pa na-prove sa kanila na marunong akong kumanta,” she explains. “Pero ngayon, lalo na with the ‘Nina Live’ album, na-showcase ko na ang talent ko. (After the first album, people were still skeptical. I hadn’t proven to them that I could really sing. But now, specially after the ‘Nina Live’ album, I’ve showcased my talent).”

One wall of Nina’s condo is, in fact, a shrine of sorts to the phenomenal chart success of “Nina Live,” with framed plaques from PARI tracking its progress from gold, to platinum, to double, triple, quadruple, quintuple and sextuple platinum, with a space reserved for its current septuple platinum status. This doesn’t include the parallel success of the “Nina Live” DVD, not to mention the uncharted but likewise brisk sales of pirate CDs and DVDs.


Released by popular demand, “Nina Live” attests to Nina’s hardcore live following, which seems to grow exponentially with each release. These days she performs an average of four times a week, five if you count her appearance on the Sunday noontime show “ASAP” where she is frequently paired with boyfriend Nyoy Volante. This is a physically demanding regimen, more so now that her current repertoire calls for the occasional booty-shaking dance number, where before she used to sing entire sets sitting down, and Nina admits that the commodity she is most in want of is sleep.

Of course, none of this current success is a fluke. Nina was only 17 when she decided to take the plunge as a full-time singer. She had been weaned on Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Anita Baker and other FM divas. She honed her chops fronting a succession of showbands performing in clubs such as Strumm’s, Ratsky, Limits and the Fashion CafĂ© by night, while she struggled to complete her accounting course at Miriam College by day. Her parents had allowed her to sing professionally on the condition that her grades didn’t suffer, and Nina often brought her books to the gig with her, so she could study during the intermission. By the time she graduated, Nina had also paid her dues on the club circuit and was ready to take the next step. She recorded a three-song demo, including an unlikely cover of Steve Perry’s MOR radio staple “Foolish Heart,” sent it to Warner Music Philippines, and next thing she knew, she was a recording artist, with all of the gloss that a major label contract provides.

Grist for the rumor mill

When I first interviewed her, Nina confessed that she still got a thrill when a fruit vendor told her that she “looked like that singer, Nina.” Now being recognized on the street has become routine, even when she puts her hair up or wears glasses.

On the down side, being a celebrity also means that her love life is grist for the showbiz rumor mill, although so far, scandalmongers haven’t been able to put much of a spin on her relationship with Nyoy, other than the fact that her ex was also a singer.

“We’ve known each other for a long time, but we’ve only been together for less than a year,” she says, adding that her relationship is “fulfilled.”

She adds that the men in her life tend to be musicians because although she meets “normal people,” it is easier to get close to people in the music scene because they keep the same hours, hang out in the same places, and share similar lifestyles.

Being in the same racket has its pros and cons, she admits.

“The pro is, you’re always together since your fans want to see you together and producers tend to book you in the same shows. The con, there are a lot of fans, male and female, who go after you, but that’s really up to us. We try to remain friendly with them, but when we see that their attention starts to become ‘OA’ (overacting, i.e., inappropriate), then that’s it.”

Pampered felines

Anyway, given her performing schedule, she doesn’t really have a lot of free time on her hands, and next to her family and Nyoy, her closest relationships these days are with her cats, who have the run of the place whether or not the master is home. Nina has four, a cranky old Siamese tom misnamed Patience, an orange Persian named Rusty who also answers to “Garfield,” mother-cat Mariah and juvenile Cotton. Numerous scratching posts, a self-cleaning litter box and plenty of cat toys keep her felines pampered.

Last month, Nina released a new, eponymous album, which she says encapsulates where her music is at these days.

“Actually, it’s a mixture of all the musical genres—jazz, dance, R ‘n’ B, acoustic, ballads—the kind of music that I sing,” she says.

The all-singing, all-dancing music video for the lead single “I Do” is Nina’s gauntlet flung into the already crowded pop R ‘n’ B arena. But it has nothing to do with trends or other artists, she hastens to add, just the natural evolution of her musical tastes.

“When I was starting out, I didn’t have too many expectations,” she says. “I only wanted to be able to record an album. But the blessings have been coming since then, and I’m thankful.”

Having just returned from a successful concert in Sydney, Australia with South Border, Nina is now ready to set the bar a little higher.

“I want to penetrate the international market, maybe starting with the Asian market,” she says.

How’s that for confident?