The Transcendence of KaladKaren

The Transcendence of KaladKaren


From transformation, representation, and of course, the potential of Drag Race Philippines, KaladKaren tells us why it’s high time for the LGBTQIA+ community to not only reclaim that power, but use it for the greatest good.

Related: Drag Race Philippines Unveils Its Judges!

Some people may think that the art of impersonation and transformation is to lose one’s identity; it’s the opposite. To Jervi, or as the rest of the world knows her, KaladKaren, it became the key to unlocking her best self, a gateway to uncovering what was already inside her: a brilliant star destined for greatness.

Structured corset body suit by JOB DACON

“It’s always been in my heart. Nandoon na siya. Na-reveal lang ‘nung nabigyan ng pagkakataon to impersonate. Hinihintay lang ‘yung right time na ma-reveal siya sa madlang people at sa sarili ko na rin,” she begins. “With all the experiences that I’ve been through, parang nari-reveal ‘dun ‘yung mga kakayanan mo. It doesn’t change who I am, it just reveals na talagang nasa puso ko na ‘yung mga nangyari sakin ngayon.”

Jervi has always been in love with the stage. Even at an early age, she knew that performing was the art form that would enrich her soul. There is a warmth of the memory that colors our conversation she shares the time she took the role of a princess in 5th Grade and was the Laura in Florante’t Laura in high school. “Little by little, nabubuksan ko ‘yung mga capabilities ko, ‘yung talents ko,” she reveals. While in college at UP Diliman, her professors always told her that she sounded very much like Karen Davila. She already had it in her years before discovering the character we would eventually fall in love with, KaladKaren. Impersonating Karen Davila at the UP Samaskom’s Live A.I.D.S. was the start of the many revelations about herself that allowed her to reach her maximum potential. 

Printed Gown by JOB DACON

Ay, kaya ko pala maging into somebody else’s shoes and discover another persona in myself! Ay, kaya ko pala magsulat ng monologue! Ay, kaya ko pala mag-perform sa stage na ganito kalaki when I was in UP! Ay, kaya ko pala maging head writer! Ay, kaya ko pala mang-influence ng tao! Ay, kaya ko pala makipagsabayan sa mga mahuhusay at beteranong mga artista,” she recounts. “Kaya ko pala!”


The LGBTQIA+ community is drawn to powerful, inspiring women. “Nakaka-amaze ang empowerment sa vulnerability! Thriving women are inspiring in this male-dominated world,” Jervi exclaims.” As a transwoman, she is vulnerable to abuse and ridicule and seeing people, especially women, succeed in their field gives her power. “You want to mimic their triumph,” she adds. 

We all saw that viral video of Jervi crossing the Cuyab River while making a parody of Karen Davila in The Correspondents. It was the spark that ignited her shot to fame, and her trajectory has since been sharply and steadily upward. She firmly believes that every artist must be born and subjected to a baptism of fire. After meeting her idol Karen Davila and their interview went viral, she would soon complete the triumvirate of Pinoy talk with Boy Abunda and Vice Ganda. 

Printed jumpsuit by GRACHELLE TORRES and Gloves by JET RIVERO

Five years and several TV shows later, she’s transcended the Karen Davila persona. “Now, I’m able to get out of that cocoon. Mas napapakita ko na ‘yung sarili ko,” she reveals. “Before, whenever I appear on TV, I appear on my endorsements, I appear on events, dapat laging KaladKaren. Kailangan maging Karen Davila for them to be able to buy you. It’s a process through time na mapapaintindi mo sa tao na hindi lang pala siyaimpersonator; she’s an artist. She’s an actress. She’s a host.”

When you know what you value in life, what fulfillment you seek, and what legacy you want to create, you will always get to where you intend to be.


As a geriatric millennial, I didn’t grow up watching people like me on TV and in movies. There were a few, sure, but they were always strictly boxed in comedy as a laughing stock or at best, the humorous foil to the lead. LGBTQIA+ stories were often excluded—completely ignored even—in mainstream media and reduced to slapstick. Huge strides have happened since then with revolutionary shows like Queer As Folk, Will and Grace, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, Glee, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. So much has already been talked about Drag Race’s impact on queer representation; now that it’s finally on our shores, Jervi believes that it will open doors to create opportunities for inclusion and greater representation and, hopefully, open the minds of the greater masses. 

Butterfly couture voluminous gown by JAN GARCIA

“The representation of drag queens and people from the drag community on the show being super queer na programa is very important because it’s a way for us to penetrate other people’s lives na nakakahon lang doon sa pagiging straight, ito lang ang tama, ito lang ang napapanood sa TV. It breaks boundaries. Trailblazer ang show na ito! Hindi lang tayo punchline or comic relief. Drag ay isang sining na ma-appreciate ng lahat ng tao.”

Having two transwomen as mainstay judges on Drag Race Philippines is a progression toward trans visibility. “I think ‘yung nangyari sa amin ni Jiggly na dalawang transwomen on the panel of judging is also very important because people come to realize that anybody can do drag. Hindi lang basta lalake ang nagda-drag, pwedeng transwoman, pwedeng cisgender woman at kahit cisgender man. Pwede mag-drag kung ‘yan ang art form nila,” she says. “This shows that the drag community is inclusive.”

Printed gown by JOB DACON

The show also sheds light on different LGBTQIA+ struggles and issues and gives them a face. This has the power to fuel conversations, change people’s minds and hearts, and initiate significant changes for the community. Inclusive representation can help in causing cultural acceptance.

Nano-normalize. Hindi na siya niche market. Hindi na siya taboo. It’s part of our culture. The show has already penetrated households. Anyone watching who isn’t LGBT may realize the struggles, that we are prone to violence and abuse and think na we really need a law to protect us.”

Butterfly couture voluminous gown by JAN GARCIA

In one episode of Drag Race Philippines, she was given airtime to talk briefly about, in layman’s terms, the importance of the SOGIE Equality Bill. “If you’re given this kind of platform, you have to make the most out of it. When we’re given this kind of opportunities, kailangan laging may sense, dapat laging may impact or else sayang ang platform,” she asserts, which stands as a necessary reminder for many. 


The LGBTQIA+ community is among the most vulnerable, with transgender women and men at most at risk. They are more likely to be treated violently and experience more threats and harassment. “People are intimidated when trans people start to take up some space. People are protective of their space. It’s harder for transwomen to penetrate because ganito lang kami. Dapat patawanin mo lang ako, ha? Dapat maaliw lang ako sa’yo, ha? People just like us when we are funny, but they don’t like us when we start voicing our opinions, when we start taking up space na feeling nila sa kanila lang,” she says. 

Printed jumpsuit by GRACHELLE TORRES and Gloves by JET RIVERO

This may seem trivial, especially to a common cisgender heterosexual man, but there was an incident several years ago at Valkyrie with a transgender fashion designer and the club’s archaic no cross-dressing policy. In fact, Jervi had a similar experience in 2018. But fast forward to 2022, the launch of the Philippine version of the biggest drag show in the world was held at a club owned by the same people. Talk about doors literally opening for these queens. 

“As time goes by, baby steps, na-a-achieve naman natin. Kaya nga siya movement. Itong movement na ito hindi dapat tumigil, dapat tuloy-tuloy lang siya. It’s a necessity ng ating lipunan. Madami pa tayong kailangan ipaglaban. Malayo pa ang kailangan nating lakbayin tungo sa equality na ‘yan. Marami pang bagay na hindi binibigay sa atin na hinihingi natin na para naman talaga sa atin,” she underscores. “Isa pa sa mahirap hindi lang sa mga transwomen, but also members of the LGBTQIA+ community, is to legalize our relationships. And I want to point that out because I’m in a relationship for ten years now and hindi kami makapagpakasal sa Pilipinas.”

Structured corset body suit by JOB DACON

She adds, “Marami akong kakilala na mga gay couples, I mean, they’ve been together for twenty-five years and even thirty to thirty-five years, at hanggang ngayon friends lang sila. Hindi sila makapag-own ng property together, they cannot adopt a child. ‘Yan ‘yung mga hindi binibigay sa atin eh. Karapatan naman natin ‘yun bilang tao. Hindi na nga natin ina-ask ‘yung marriage eh, we’re just asking to legalize civil union in the Philippines.”

As a gay man in a 16-year relationship, I echo her sentiments with long, deep sighs. 


Sometimes life doesn’t always go as planned, and beautiful accidents lead us to unexpected situations. From working behind the camera as a head writer to becoming a viral sensation, from being hailed by Boy Abunda as the digital show diva to Drag Race Philippines, I wonder how high success is eched on Jervi’s mind. 

Structured corset body suit by JOB DACON

“I don’t see the money as the success—nakakabili ka ng gusto mo, nakakabili ka ng bahay, sikat ka at maraming taong nakakakilala sa’yo—ang success sakin kapag may mga young LGBT members…” she contemplates, her voice beginning to quiver. “…Na nagme-message sa’kin na sinasabi, ‘alam mo, ate KaladKaren, ikaw ang idol ko. ‘Pag laki ko gusto ko maging ikaw.’ Parang nabibigyan mo sila ng hope na despite of their struggles in life in becoming who they really are, nabibigyan mo sila ng pag-asa, na you can also be the person who they want to be and successful also. Nakikita nila ‘yung success mo as their success, too—‘yun ‘yung nakakataba ng puso.”

Printed Gown by JOB DACON

It goes back to representation. She acknowledged that she’s not just doing her job, but  a responsibility to be a good role model. Case in point, she deliberately posts Luke on social media to show everyone that true love happens to us.

“Giving hope to other people that being queer is wonderful. Being a transgender woman is empowering.”

All the members of the community we see on TV carry this responsibility. Jervi is happy to have this responsibility and always keeps up with that expectation.

Ang dream ko is sana mas marami pang transwomen na makasama sa mainstream industry at mas marami pang pintuan ang magbukas para sa queer people.” With  people like KaladKaren helping the lead the charge, this reclaiming of true power and liberty to be will not only be a wished upon possibility, but a rightful reality for all. Yes, it’s about damn time, too.

Photography by DOOKIE DUCAY
Creative Direction by BRIE VENTURA
Fashion Direction by RYUJI SHIOMITSU
Beauty Direction by MIA CASTRO
Hair by ARIES MANAL using wigs by HAIR ON POINT

Shoot Coordination by KZ FRANCISCO

Video Producer and Editor REGINA ACERON assisted by AUDREY SISON

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