Julienne Monique Dirige-Ouano, Munchkin to family and friends, is an all-around artist. She can sing, act, and dance. She also writes songs. I have long wanted to feature her but haven’t had the time to do so, until now. I believe that this is the best time to get to know Munchkin more.
Although I’ve known her for years, our interactions have always been confined to theater and other artistic activities. Even when I worked with her on a skit that I wrote for a corporate event, we never really had the chance to sit down and talk. So, I was excited when she said yes to my request and gamely answered the questions I sent her.
Munchkin is a lively, lovely person with a never-say-die attitude. She’s always growing, improving, and reinventing herself. She’s also very artistic. Even the way she answers questions will tell you that. Let’s get to know this CDO personality better by reading about special parts of herself that she gamely shared with me.
1. How were you as a child? Were you already into the arts?
I can say that I grew up as an artistic kid. My mom told me I held crayons and scribbled on scratch papers and on our walls as early as two years old. She taught me how to cross-stitch and paint as well. She even taught me how to make my own paper dolls to save money and express my artistic ideas. My drawing and painting hobby went on until grade school and a bit during high school.
My dad taught me how to play the guitar when I was in 2nd grade and I also took up piano lessons, but music wasn’t really my passion that time.
2. Did you always want to be an artist?
As a kid, I wanted to become a nurse because just like other Asian parents, my mom and dad wanted us (my brothers and I) to proceed in the field of medicine. When I saw a video of Defying Gravity performed by Idina Menzel way back 2010, it sparked my passion for music and Broadway. That’s when I knew deep in my heart that I wanted to become an artist or a performer.
3. What (and when) were your first major singing & acting projects? The ones that first put you in the spotlight?
The first singing performance, which, to me, was major, was when I performed Mamma Mia during our Broadway On My Mind concert at Rodelsa hall in 2017.
My first major acting project was when I was cast as Lalang for a short film called “Uli” in December 2020. I did the film with Rigel Thomas and my Viral Multimedia PH family.
4. Singing, I presume, is your first love. What about acting?
Yes, I do believe singing is now my first love, alongside songwriting. Acting comes next. Ever since I first watched Broadway musicals, I’ve been dreaming of becoming an actress – be it in a play, musical, or film.
5. What’s your favorite performance (for both singing and acting)? The most meaningful and memorable ones for you?
The most meaningful and memorable performance for me in terms of singing was when I was given the chance to sing my original composition at Blackout during Valentine’s Day in 2019. To see people jamming to my song felt really amazing and comforting.
In terms of acting, it’s the short film “Uli” since it was my first time acting for a big crowd (netizens). It was also memorable because my Viral Multimedia PH family trusted and encouraged me.
6. What is your dream project?
My dream project is to perform in a Broadway musical called “Waitress”. This is one of my favorite Broadway musicals aside from Les Miserables. Whether it be a local or international production, it would mean the world to me to be a part of a Waitress production.
Actually, to perform in any play or musical with an audience is my dream.
7. Who is Munchkin the person (not the artist)?
I believe Munchkin is an ambivert who plays online games a lot. She is a thoughtful and generous friend. She might be strong, brave, and courageous most of the time but inside, she’s a sensitive and emotional little ball. She’ll be there for you when you need someone to lean on.
She’s actually surprisingly more forgiving now and she understands people’s behaviors and actions instead of judging them. She’s a bit of a hopeless romantic and she loves unconditionally.
It’s really hard to describe who Munchkin is since I’m mostly unaware of myself, but I think this is who I am now. I have changed a lot over the past two years and I like today’s Munchkin better. Most importantly, Munchkin loves music, food, and videogames.
8. Aside from singing and acting, what else do you like to do? Any hobbies? Sports?
I actually love to cook and watch other people cook on Youtube or Netflix. I love binge-watching series and movies. Especially nowadays, with the pandemic keeping us locked in our homes most of the time. But my hobby is really playing Valorant and Minecraft with friends, and then we stream together to watch movies.
9. Who are the artists you look up to?
Ohh boy, this answer is going to be long for there are a lot of them but let’s start with music. I look up to Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. I also look up to these artists/musicians for their musicality and voice quality: Snoh Aalegra, Tom Misch, the artists from 88rising (Niki, Rich Brian, Joji), Haley Reinhart, Frank Ocean, Boy Pablo, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Doja Cat, Rex Orange County, Black Sea Dahu. I take inspiration from a lot of artists and these aren’t all of them yet! Some of these people are total performers and I love to see how beautiful they perform onstage. You can really feel their love for music and performing.
In acting, I look up to Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emma Stone, Kathy Bates, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Jessica Lange. These are the people I could think of now, but I sure look up to a lot!
There are also Broadway artists/actors who are exceptional! They are Jessie Mueller, Keala Seattle, Christopher Fitzgerald, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe, Lea Salonga, Idina Menzel, Julie Andrews.
These are all the artists I could think of for now.
10. Do you follow a routine when you perform?
I actually don’t since I don’t really perform a lot; but when I do, I make sure to be in good condition. I avoid food and beverage that could affect my vocal cords. I make sure to have enough sleep as well. Actually, before I perform, I get so anxious and nervous, but when I get on stage and start performing, it’s like nothing in the world can stop me.
11. How are you coping with the Covid-19 new normal?
I have been coping well. I like to stay indoors so staying in isn’t a problem for me. I write songs when I feel like it. I like to keep myself busy. I also work online as a freelance video editor. Aside from that, I play Valorant a lot with my friends. It helps take the stress away. I’m actually really okay so far.
12. What are your plans post-Covid-19? Any current or upcoming projects? An online show, perhaps?
I’m planning to look for producers since I really want to release my songs. I don’t know how to produce – and I lack producing equipment. I’m hoping there will be post-Covid-19 projects for me as well.
13. What message would you like to impart to aspiring artists, especially in these difficult times?
I’m not really good at this, so I’ll say what I would say to myself:
Hey guys, I know it’s kinda rough lately, but I want you to know that you should trust yourself and the process. Things will happen in their own time. Sometimes, we get disgusted or fed up and we lose interest in doing what we love. Sometimes, I get lazy and I know this happens to you, too. That’s okay, that’s normal. Just don’t lose sight of what’s important and don’t give up. It’s okay to take things in stride as long as you are doing or creating something.
Listen to different artists, explore, make sure you are not in your comfort zone because it will help a lot. When people or things let you down, keep going. Don’t pressure yourself; don’t go too fast. It’s okay to be frustrated in yourself and it’s okay to cry. At the end of the day, what’s important is you are happy with what you are doing. Be proud of yourself.
There you have it, our CDO personality for this week, the multitalented Munchkin. Follow her journey and get to know her even more through her FB page. You may also want to subscribe to her YouTube channel.
Hope to see more of you onscreen and onstage, Munchkin!