Janina Vela may not be a movie or TV star, but she certainly has plenty of fans. Currently the YouTuber and social media influencer has close to 400,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel and over 200,000 followers on Instagram —proof enough that in this day and age, you don’t need to be in showbiz to be a celebrity.
Nevertheless, she does come from a showbiz family. If her surname rings a bell, you might be interested to know that she is a granddaughter of the late Helen Vela, a very popular TV host during the 1970s and ’80s.
If you’re too young to know who Helen Vela was, well there’s Helen’s daughter and Janina’s aunt, Princess Punzalan, the character actress best remembered for her portrayal of Selina Perreira-Matias in the soap “Mula sa Puso.”
Although she is evidently following a different route, Janina admits that being a showbiz personality herself was once her dream.
“I wanted to be in showbiz, I really did. And then when I turned 15, I kinda lost the desire. I don’t know why. That same year was the year I got into YouTube, so I think everything worked out,” she said in an interview with InterAksyon.
Still, a showbiz career remains an option, although she is trying a slightly different path. Janina is working on her first single under Universal Records, which she hopes will be released by the end of the year.
In the meaantime, she has already achieved a measure of success as an online personality.
Janina recalls how her YouTube journey started. “I love watching YouTubers from other countries. But I kind of wanted someone I could relate to more; someone who had black hair and oily skin like me. Somebody who didn’t have Target here; we only have department stores and stuff. Someone who I could relate to more, but I couldn’t find someone exactly like that in the Philippines—so I had this crazy idea of doing this myself.”
“So that’s how I got into YouTube. And then suddenly there was this girl at the mall who told me, ‘Janina, you inspire me so much to be confident. And I thought, ‘oh my God, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, to inspire girls in my generation and to speak about issues that I’m going through and they’re going through as well.”
Being on YouTube has allowed Janina to address her insecurities, and to help girls who are going through the same growing pains as she does. She promotes self-love and acceptance. Being able to help others has become her greatest motivation.
“People say that everything happens for a reason. And sometimes the reason is for yourself. You’ll be better next time. Or you’ll be stronger. Sometimes things also happen for a reason so you can help somebody through it. That’s another reason why I started my YouTube channel — because I wanted to use it as a platform and use my voice to really help others,” Janina shared.
Her grandmother, Helen Vela, died years before she was born, but not meeting her in person hasn’t deterred Janina from picking up something from her namesake, learning from archives of old shows from a different decade.
She recalls, “I forgot what show it was in but they were in a sense doing a parody of her. Like they would dress like Helen Vela and make fun of the things that she would say. Even if it was in a comedic sense, she was not moved by it all, she was not offended. That was how strong she was—not just by not saying anything, but even to laugh with them.”
“I think that was amazing because she embraced every imperfection and every fun and weird thing about her, that even when people magnified it on TV, she was completely unmoved. That’s how strong she was. And that’s something I have learned from my lola,” said Janina.
Janina Vela is one of the social media stars and celebrities who will be part of “It’s a Girl Thing,” an event created to inspire and empower young women through live appearances, workshops and brand experiences. The lineup also includes YouTube superstars Bethany Mota, Remi Cruz, Niomi Smart, Kiana Valenciano, Pamela Swing, Abby Asistio, Renee Dominique and Riva Quenery.
Made possible through the joint efforts of Branded and Globe Live, “It’s a Girl Thing” will be held on November 18 at the Globe Iconic Store, BHS Ampitheater in Bonifacio Global City. Tickets are available via Ticketworld.