Kira Balinger takes on adulthood in the spotlight.
Kira Balinger believes in taking chances. Talking to the 19-year-old actress, it’s easy to assume that her candor and confidence stem from her relative youth and seemingly charmed life. But like many people her age, growing up has given Kira her fair share of challenges and disappointments. She’s also had to weather these setbacks under the glare of a spotlight that often burns so bright it threatens to erase all color from life. Thankfully, she seems to be taking it all in stride, displaying a kind of strength and grace that belie her age.
“God guides me,” she says. “I know He won’t give something na hindi ko kaya.”
For someone blessed with otherworldly beauty, talent and charisma—a potent combination in showbiz—the possibilities are seemingly endless. But we’ve seen many stories start like this, with just as many ending with an irrelevant fizzle instead of the pop of an enduring career. Many young, promising talents burn out too quickly, overwhelmed by the demands of a star-making industry and the excesses that come along with it. The myriad of choices becomes a burden and the proverbial fig tree of opportunities can loom too large and stump many, but Kira has found a way to circumvent this. “Next to God, [I trust] my family and my management. I put all of my trust in them because I know that they know what is best for me,” she says, resolutely. “Ako kasi papunta pa lang eh, sila pabalik na.” She cracks up at her last line. “Nanay lines!” she says, holding her hand up for a high five. Everyone has heard a version of this from their own mothers. Kira, for one, is obviously listening.
The challenges that beset any adolescent can just as easily take hold of an adult. It’s a wonder that someone like Kira seems not only to have adjusted to the rigors of being a professional actress, but thrive in it. Two years ago, she was plucked from a pack of charming hopefuls and put on the cover of this magazine and dubbed one of the “Women to Watch.” The cover was iconic, and many of the women there have gone on to greater heights. Some have even landed solo MEGA covers. Kira watched these all patiently, and continued to work hard and—as they say—do her own thing. Since then she’s had her debut (yes, she was all of 17 when she landed that plum spot in the publication) and she’s learned that being adult doesn’t just mean dressing up in a fancy Mark Bumgarner gown. “I can honestly say that I’m not the same person who I was two years ago—in a good way of course,” she says. “I’ve matured a lot. I know my priorities in life. And I know what to give pansin to, what I should ignore.”
“I feel like it was a slow process. It started mainly after my debut. I started becoming stronger as a person, like I don’t let people step on me anymore, take me for granted. I really choose the people I surround myself with.
“Mas nag-i-ingat ako ngayon. Growing up, you can only put so much energy into something until it drains you out. You really have to be careful on what you give all your attention to—what and who!”
She says this all while maintaining firm eye contact. Her voice never wavers. Her body language, open and leaning forward as though she has nothing to hide, speaks just as clearly. It’s often disconcerting talking to beautiful people—and Kira has this gift in spades, certainly enough to render many to look away bashfully. Yes, she possesses the hallmarks of a classic mestiza beauty—radiant skin, clear, wide eyes, a slender built and a bountiful head of glossy, lush hair. But she speaks so clearly and carefully, articulating her thoughts in proper sentences, and she moves with a relaxed grace that one can’t help but hold her gaze back. On a picture her beauty can distract, but in person, one is pulled into her world. You can’t help but listen.
The road to her first solo MEGA cover wasn’t as simple for Kira as it was for many of her contemporaries. There was no glamorous destination (not yet anyway) or TV crew following her every move. Instead she spent one quiet Saturday inside JuRo Salon Exclusif, getting her hair cut and colored by one of the Philippines’ premiere hair duos, master cutter Jude Hipolito and colorist extraordinaire Rose Velasco. The decision to color her hair was a tricky one, given her current situation. “I prefer the classic look. Also in my line of work, there’s only so much that I can do with my hair because I have [to consider] continuities when it comes to teleseryes and movies. So bumabawi ako sa styling,” she says. Regardless, she made the bold move and picked a golden brown shade with a halo of dusky rose. Thankfully, JuRo is known for fusing the most out-there shades with natural hair tones. Using MajiFashion from L’Oréal Professionnel, the preferred brand by many of the top hair experts in the Philippines, JuRo created a beautiful bespoke color for Kira, which they dubbed “dans la rose.” The resulting color was a stunning, multi-faceted creation with blush and pastel purple tones woven intricately into Kira’s naturally raven mane. Rose applied a freehand balayage technique to create the discreet ribbons of color while Jude added shape and movement to the young actress’s long tresses.
“Napa-wow talaga ako honestly. Nakita ko talaga na ang JuRo, they really care about their client’s hair, how their clients would feel about their hair, how it looks and if it suits them. I’ve never had my hair colored like this,” says Kira. In the background, Jude and Rose—who also styled her hair for this shoot—laugh modestly in the background. “I’ve gotten a lot of compliments lately saying that it suits me so nakaka-engganyo lumabas!” she adds, cheekily. Should she decide to experiment more with hair color in the future, L’Oréal Professionnel’s MajiFashion—where the color possibilities are seemingly limitless—and the refined expertise of JuRo just might be the winning combination Kira looks for.
The inspiration for the cover shoot was a modern day Brigette Bardot—hence the sexy bedhead hair and the moody smokey eye. Kira looked every inch the part of the iconic Gallic beauty, but she had someone else in mind when she saw her reflection. “Camila Cabello!” she exclaimed, referring the sultry-eyed, twentysomething singer. The older ones chuckled at the age disparity of the references, but it’s not surprising that Kira has music in her mind. While many in local showbiz claim the actress-singer title, Kira’s love affair with music goes deeper than most other’s ability to simply carry a tune. The MEGA cover star not only plays the guitar, but she composes her own music as well. While her compositions are still tucked away, Kira’s definitely dreaming of the day when she can let music play a bigger role in her professional life.
“Music is something that I really have a soft spot for. It’s something that I really, really love,” she says. “It gives me lots of confidence and it makes me happy. It’s like therapy! If I need to rest, if I get burned out, that’s what I run to.”
When it comes to her passions, Kira feels strongly about fueling everything. “I want to do [acting and singing] nang sabay. I love them both very much and I don’t think that I could do one without the other.
“Pero in terms of focusing, I think it will have to come to a point where I would have to give one more priority than the other. I’ve been doing acting for much of my showbiz life so maybe in the next few years, I could prioritize music.” While the near future still has her acting in front of the camera, she happily shares that she’s also working on a music video to accompany her song, “If I’m Being Honest.”
So what’s next for Kira Balinger? She modestly shares some of the plans she and her team are working on. Pressed for more, she acquiesces: “This is a dream big kind of thing, but I’m really hoping I can make it to Hollywood to represent the Philippines,” she says. “Dream big talaga! Libre lang naman so why not? Hopefully I can work my way up there, but if not, [I want to] make it big here. Syempre, the Philippines will always be my home.”
Like most artists, Kira has a keen sense of what’s right for her. It’s a tough balance, keeping an open mind, pushing one’s boundaries and yet staying true to one’s self. That kind of juggling act is exhausting, even for the older adults surrounding her during the cover shoot. Again, here Kira takes a refreshingly simple yet wise approach. “If you get the opportunity to have a vacation, go for it!” she says. “You really need to make yourself miss your craft to enable you to come back stronger and come back with more ideas to become more creative. You need to take a break.”
Has it only been two years since she first stepped into the studio to take her place among the other stars on the rise? The Kira Balinger in front of us right now is undoubtedly still young, but she’s not kidding when she says she’s grown up since those days. “I don’t want to rush anything. In God’s good timing, when the opportunity is there, if it’s a good deal, if it’s a learning experience as well,” she says of the choices she’s taken so far. When faced with change, with too many choices, with a fig tree plump with indecision, Kira is unwavering in taking the next step, in taking a risk; changing, growing, in her own time.