Ms. Jay Alexander

I think second to Harry Potter, I have most knowledge about America’s Next Top Model. I’ve watched every season without fail and interruption, more than once, and with complete and utter devotion. I know almost all the girls (except the really forgettable ones, and knowing they are the most blah makes me remember them even more), I’ve memorized all the judges, I’ve ranked all the seasons (Favorite: Cycle 7; Least Favorite: Cycle 14).

Most of all, I love the Jays.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled upon learning that Mr. Nigel Barker, noted fashion photographer, visited the country with runway diva coach extraordinaire Ms. Jay Alexander. I would have preferred the Jay pair than Ms. Jay and Nigel (who took note of him?) together. It was such an odd combination.

Because of work and other reasons, I didn’t plan on attending any of their mall shows. I’m happy watching them on the latest ANTM cycle where Ms. Jay is big, bold and fabulous and where Nigel remains to be a noted fashion photographer.

So, on their last show last Saturday, I found myself going on a Carlos Celdran tour without so much as a droplet of regret that they were only a few kilometers away.

Last Saturday was–well, eventful. Jason woke up at 8 a.m. for the 9 a.m. Intramuros tour and I was, to “euphemize” things, extremely pissed. I’ve been wanting to go on the Celdran tour since 2008 and I woke up extra early so we wouldn’t be a second late. By 9 a.m., we were a little lost and stuck in Manila traffic. I had given up hope 10 minutes earlier and was even tempted to cancel the entire thing and just go back to bed. We haven’t paid yet so it wasn’t really a total loss.

But Jason, being his normal awesome levelheaded self, dragged me to the meeting place and asked around, looking for the group in the hopes that we could catch up. He found them but I was in no mood to pay attention to the amazing stories about the ruins. I was silent, my forehead in a semi-permanent contortion of annoyance. As we moved to the next stop, me slowly forgiving Jason, I looked to my left.

There was a big, imposing, long-legged African-American beside me. Against my stunted frame, he was about two heads taller. But his height was the only astonishing fact about this man–he was wearing a standard uniform of no-nonsense shorts, a striped shirt and black sneaks. His hair was covered neatly with a net.

There were no wild afros or giant collars, even that dead straight weave was gone. Without all the “HOO CHILD!” and that fabulosity, I nudged Jason of all people and asked him in barely a whisper.

Me: Jason, tingnan mo sa left. SI Ms. Jay ba yan?

Jason: Sino? Yung sa American Idol?

Me: Hindi! Sa ANTM!

Jason: (looking again) Oo! Siya yan! Pa-picture tayo!

At that confirmation, my fan-girl heart went haywire. On tour with Ms. Jay Alexander. Suddenly my walk turned into a semi-strut.

He was humble and discreet, not wanting to draw any attention to himself. At the kalesa-ride leg, as everyone clamored for a ride in the carts, he walked all the way to the back only to realize that there were none left. His bodyguard (smaller than him I might add) suggested they take the alternative mode of transportation–a pedicab. Ms. Jay in a cramped pedicab that comfortably fits someone only half his size? Very very quietly he said that he preferred the horses and who wouldn’t? It was, after all, part of the experience of Old Manila. As if on cue, Carlos Celdran rushed through the crowd and told him “We have a special carriage for you up front!” Ms. Jay’s face lit up through his dark glasses and said “Oh good!” in polite relief then followed the comedic historian.

At our next stop, in a subtle and suave move, I arranged our seats to be beside his. He sat there listening with undivided attention. He was wearing the oddest watch–a chain of watches instead of a strap. He kept stretching his legs, prized and famous, in between laughing at Celdran’s jokes and role-plays.

Except for that kalesa ride, Jay Alexander would always follow the 50-strong crowd from behind, obviously not wanting to attract attention for himself. But I was onto him, perhaps the only one. Our tour group was full of foreigners and not one of them seemed to watch the show.

Jason kept reminding me about the photo, after all, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I hesitated, waiting for the right time. Finally, at the second to the last stop, I gave Jason the go signal since everything seemed to have mellowed. When we approached the runway diva coach extraordinaire, I wasn’t exactly surprised that another female was having her photo taken. When she was done, I politely beckoned the man in front of me to go ahead. I can wait. After a few seconds of pointing fingers, Ms. Jay (also for a few seconds) became the Ms. Jay I loved on the show. He exclaimed, motioning for me to come over “Girl, come in here!” His arms were wide open and Jason, again being wonderful, looked up at him and said, “We’re big fans.” I think he said it for me. I was too starstruck and could only muster an ecstatic goofy grin.

It was a wonderful addition to a great monthsiversary weekend with Jason. Thank you.

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