Miss Lea Salonga
I Dare to Dream Judge & Singer
Lea Salonga is living proof of what happens when young girls dare to dream. She started performing with Repertory Philippines at the tender age of seven, the thrill of performing in theater fueling her passion. Conquering local entertainment next, she successfully recorded and released her first studio album (an award-winning one at that) at just nine years old and later on regularly appeared on television and became a host of her own show. Being driven and outgoing, these performance were a form of training for young Lea; each experience brought its own lesson. But while she took on projects to learn from the real world, she also made sure to invest in formal training. You could say she was a working student attending classes at Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in New York between shows and performances.
Today, Lea Salonga is a world famous artist praised for her work in
Broadway and West End (portraying Kim in Miss Saigon and
Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables). She’s no stranger to
anyone who loves Disney, too. In 1992, she lent her singing voice to
Princess Jasmine and six years later, to Mulan. A Whole New
World and Reflection, two iconic Disney hits, would not
have been the same without her.
This year, Miss Lea Salonga returns to Disney as the judge of I Dare to Dream. She may be tasked with selecting the grand prize winner for the series, but above all, she is the perfect role model that these six aspiring girls—and girls around the world—need today.
Janina Vela, 17
I Dare to Dream Host & YouTube Vlogger
Janina decided to try her hand at beauty vlogging two years ago and it’s safe to say that it took off like a dream. Her first YouTube video went up in January 2015; since then, she has raked in more than 226,000 subscribers and shared 140 other videos loved by viewers all over the world.
There’s nothing outrageous about how Janina puts her videos together: She shares useful, tried-and-tested tips with her viewers and tells it like it is. From her beauty hauls to attending events, covering exclusive launches to chatting with celebrities, Janina never forgets to make sure her viewers are in on the experience, too. In fact, she engages with her audience as if she was on FaceTime with her best friend or sister (some of her young fans even call her ate Janina). With her bubbly, magnetic personality, it’s no wonder people keep coming back to her channel.
Apart from vlogging (bagging three nominations in the Influence Asia Awards along the way), guesting at events and attending workshops, Janina has embarked on a new adventure in 2017: signing on with Disney to host its first digital reality series, I Dare to Dream.
Disney Princess, The Final 6
Alexi Tan, 12
Who has their own distinct art style at 12 years old? Alexi does and she wants to be an animator one day. She started taking drawing seriously when she was 8.
While Alexi may have all the time in the world, she’s not one to waste it. She allots a chunk of her day to practicing a range of drawing styles. In fact, she fills sketchbook after sketchbook with her drawings (mostly female manga characters). She keeps a special sketchbook though just for Disney, pages specifically for “the Disney way” of drawing figures.
Articulate but soft-spoken, Alexi admits she’s often misunderstood: A lot of the time she was called out by teachers for doodling in class and was bullied by the girls in her school for her drawings. That was the moment Alexi’s mom decided to take her out of school and try home schooling instead.
Alexi may have been the odd one out among her school peers, but in the Disney house, with like-minded girls around her, she thrives. And in the episodes to come, it’s a thrill to see her come into her own—quite like her favorite Disney Princess, Mulan, who is independent and determined just as Alexi is.
Tara Hyacinth Leonado, 16
Tara Hyacinth is not your ordinary teenager. She doesn’t go to school like most girls her age; she works like adults to put food on the table. And at 16 years old, Hya is the sole breadwinner of a family fractured by loss and adversity: She had to cope with her father passing away when she was much younger and had to deal with her mother abandoning her shortly after. She was then left in the care of her elderly grandmother along with her younger brother with special needs.
For Hya, her voice is her meal ticket. She sings at weddings, events and clubs and pays the bills along the way. In between shows, rehearsals and auditions, she attends workshops to further her training. There seems to be no resting period. Despite the hardship and having to deal with grown-up responsibilities at such a young age, Hya maintains an unwavering sense of innocence. And even without the fun and games in a typical childhood, she remains grateful and determined to make life better for her family. With that, Hya aspires to become a Broadway actress someday. After all she didn’t train to be a triple threat (Hya can sing, dance and act) to dream small.
When asked about her favorite Disney Princess, Hya is quick to answer Cinderella, the princess of choice for all the reasons you’d expect. Hya may be the girl with a humbler background in the I Dare to Dream house, but there’s a lot the other girls can learn from her.
Jaden Narvios, 9
President of the Philippines
Remember the name Jaden Narvois when you’re at the polls in 2025. That’s when she’s eligible to run for president.
Cebu native Jaden was raised to become a leader. With influential parents encouraging her early on to get hands-on experience, she’s well on her way to filling in the role she dreams of.
What Jayden really cares about is helping people. More than mere labels, it’s about making a change in the lives of the less fortunate. She eventually realized that the person with the most potential to do this is the president and decided to work hard to become just that: the President of the Republic of the Philippines. But this is no thoughtless quest for power. In her own way, she understands politicians. She knows about the traits of an effective leader. She generates opinions. More importantly, she knows that this isn’t a self-serving job.
Jayden rejects the notion that a girl can’t be president (though she’s been told this many times before). She remains focused and firmly believes that girls can do anything. It comes as no surprise, then, that her favorite Disney Princess is Mulan, a character Jayden loves for her unwavering patriotism. “Mulan fights for her country,” says Jaden. “Just like I will one day fight for the Philippines”.
In the I Dare to Dream house, Jayden is the idealist. Although the youngest in the bunch, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Liana Lizbeth San Diego, 15
Liana and her favorite Disney Princess, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, have a whole lot in common: When they set a goal, they’re serious about it. They work hard to achieve it and settling is not an option.
Much like Princess Tiana, Liana dreams of something great but not altogether out of reach. She has always been an animal lover and now wants to build a career around this passion. And just like Princess Tiana, her aspirations are intrinsically linked to her father, who sadly passed away early last year. He was a veterinarian.
Liana grew up tagging along when her father went to work. She’d watch him attend to the animals and save their lives. Sometimes, she’d help around the clinic, too. This was the moment she decided she wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps and become a veterinarian. But Liana’s dream goes beyond mere veterinary science: She is set on one day opening her own foundation dedicated to helping low-income families pay for their animal’s treatments.
Watch the second contender from Cebu, Liana, as her story unfolds in the weeks to come!
Sirach Catipay, 10
Sirach is the cutie pie of the bunch (in fact, her last name rhymes with cutie pie), but don’t write her off just yet. At home, she’s the boss; she’s the person in charge. She doesn’t mind being hands-on or setting the rules or taking on the ate role. Now, a 10-year-old who understands the importance of discipline? How’s that for a little cutie pie?
Along with helping run a tight ship at home, Sirach runs an efficient kitchen. It all started with simply watching her mother prepare meals for the family. Then, going from spectator to student, she eventually started cooking up a storm herself. A regular routine in the Catipay home even involves Sirach waking up early to surprise her parents with a delicious breakfast.
Sirach picked up the basics from her mother but went on to formal culinary lessons. Here, she learned that most Filipinos don’t have the opportunity to travel to different countries. They aren’t granted the luxury of trying different cuisine. And this was when Sirach thought of someday opening a restaurant that brings cuisine from other countries back home to the Philippines. She already has a name for it, too: Dream Country.
With her eagerness to explore coupled with determination, Sirach sure is a lot like favorite Disney Princess, Rapunzel from Tangled. Stay tuned to see how this little boss takes on exciting tasks in the weeks to come!
Stephanie Jordan, 10
This isn’t Stephanie’s first time appearing on a show. In 2015, she was on The Voice Kids (mentored by Miss Lea Salonga no less) and now returns wanting to showcase more than her singing ability.
Stephanie Jordan dares to dream and wants to become a television host/newscaster, something that came about as she watched Family Feud one evening with her mother. To make the audience feel like they’re not just watching something unfold, but that they’re part of it: this is what Stephanie wants to do. She wants to be able to make people laugh, make off-the-cuff jokes, burst into a song and maybe do a little dance like a true entertainer.
As the class clown and beauty queen rolled into one, it may seem like an easy task for someone like Stephanie. But behind this confident facade is someone sensitive, a girl very aware of those around her and how they see her, a girl who just wants to prove herself to the world.
When asked about her favorite Disney Princess, Stephanie shares that it’s none other than Rapunzel from Tangled. It seems this princess’ determination and readiness to try new things resonates with Stephanie. With interesting challenges and daring tasks coming up in I Dare to Dream—and a house shared with five other girls—how will Stephanie rise to the occasion? Watch to find out!