Unstoppable: Overcoming Poverty to Broadway Success

A Filipino American Story as told by Grammy and Tony Award Winner, Jhett Tolentino. Read his full story below:“Who would have thought that someone like me would end up with three Tonys and a Grammy? I never imagined it, not as the youngest child of a jeepney driver and beautician who lived in the squatters of Iloilo. I still remember how my mom would stack the coins my dad earned for the day and try to figure out how to meet our needs. I never blamed my parents for being unable to afford things, even if that meant having no money to pay for my education. I didn’t want to add to their burdens, so I applied for scholarships that took me through high school and college. I worked six simultaneous jobs after graduation, built my parents a house, and struggled to pay the mortgage. When I moved to the United States, I wasn’t done giving my family a better life. I took every job that came my way: as a marketer, waiter, babysitter, grocery bagger, personal assistant, nursing assistant. Then I discovered the theater. It was the only thing that kept me sane. I loved the idea of coming in, sitting with the lights out, and getting entertained. I also loved to voice out my opinion, which I did with a regular group of theatergoers and eventually on my blog. Then, the Broadway folks started asking for my thoughts on everything. It was official—I’m not a nobody! As I met more people and got more involved, I decided to invest. I had a little money saved for it, but my business partner 'aid: “You pick the show, I’ll write the check.” Since then, we’ve done 30 shows! I have worked with big names in the theater and go to awards shows. But this is all bigger than me. I’m here because I wanted to give my parents the life they deserved but never thought they could have. I went to the United States believing that we all have the opportunity to be someone. Poverty is not a death sentence and I am a living proof of that! Dreaming is free; why settle for less?” #FAHM #FAHM2017About: Filipino American Disruptors is a month-long storytelling initiative powered by NextDayBetter x AARP AAPI Community celebrating the stories of Filipino Americans in a range of disciplines from community activism to tech entrepreneurship. These forward-thinking individuals are trendsetters, trailblazers, and problem-solvers in their respective fields, helping to push America and the Filipino American community forward through their leadership, creativity, and innovation.

Posted by AARP AAPI Community on Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Unstoppable: Overcoming Poverty to Broadway Success

A Filipino American Story as told by Grammy and Tony Award Winner, Jhett Tolentino.

“Who would have thought that someone like me would end up with three Tonys and a Grammy? I never imagined it, not as the youngest child of a jeepney driver and beautician who lived in the squatters of Iloilo. I still remember how my mom would stack the coins my dad earned for the day and try to figure out how to meet our needs.

I never blamed my parents for being unable to afford things, even if that meant having no money to pay for my education. I didn’t want to add to their burdens, so I applied for scholarships that took me through high school and college.

I worked six simultaneous jobs after graduation, built my parents a house, and struggled to pay the mortgage. When I moved to the United States, I wasn’t done giving my family a better life. I took every job that came my way: as a marketer, waiter, babysitter, grocery bagger, personal assistant, nursing assistant. Then I discovered the theater. It was the only thing that kept me sane. I loved the idea of coming in, sitting with the lights out, and getting entertained. I also loved to voice out my opinion, which I did with a regular group of theater-goers and eventually on my blog.

Then, the Broadway folks started asking for my thoughts on everything. It was official—I’m not a nobody! As I met more people and got more involved, I decided to invest. I had a little money saved for it, but my business partner said: “You pick the show, I’ll write the check.” Since then, we’ve done 30 shows! I have worked with big names in the theater and go to awards shows.

But this is all bigger than me. I’m here because I wanted to give my parents the life they deserved but never thought they could have. I went to the United States believing that we all have the opportunity to be someone. Poverty is not a death sentence and I am a living proof of that! Dreaming is free; why settle for less?”

About:
Filipino American Disruptors is a month-long storytelling initiative powered by NextDayBetter x AARP AAPI Communityommunity celebrating the stories of Filipino Americans in a range of disciplines from community activism to tech entrepreneurship. These forward-thinking individuals are trendsetters, trailblazers, and problem-solvers in their respective fields, helping to push America and the Filipino American community forward through their leadership, creativity, and innovation.

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo