Josie de Leon has always been a performer.
When Josie immigrated to Canada in 1997, she left her family and a promising singing career in the Philippines.
“Giving up that career was a tough decision for me, but love won,” Josie said, referring to her Filipino-Canadian husband.
Fast forward to today, Josie is now a celebrated member of the Filipino-Canadian community, being a champion of women empowerment, Filipino heritage, and the importance of performing arts.
Life in Canada
Josie admitted that moving to Canada was far from easy.
The mere fact of uprooting one’s self from her home country was hard enough, but to start a whole new life thousands of miles away in a foreign land was a whole other story.
“Being in the showbiz world in the Philippines, I was used to the glitz and glamour. I was also used to having household help in doing almost everything,” Josie shared. “So, having a husband and a baby and living in a new country became very overwhelming for me.”
But as they say, everything becomes better with time. Josie started adjusting to life in the Great White North and began enjoying her new life.
“I started to get used to the life here, taking it one day at a time,” she recalled. “I realized Canada is a great country to raise your family. Being hands on in taking care of my son was the most priceless thing.”
Despite having fully adapted to the Canadian lifestyle Josie admits she still misses a few things about the Philippines.
“I miss my family the most in the Philippines,” she said, pointing out that both of her parents and three of her siblings are still in the Philippines. “I also miss the [tropical] weather… I am not a lover of winter.”
Josie adds that she misses Filipino food and the relaxed pace of Pinoy life. At times she can’t help but miss her friends back home, too.
Rediscovering Passion and Purpose
“When I [immigrated] to Canada in ‘97, I concentrated on raising my family. Therefore , I gave up something that I loved so much, which is performing,” Josie shared with the Philippine Canadian Inquirer. “It’s like putting it inside a box and storing it away.”
But when she and her husband divorced in 2005, she “started to go through all the stuff that [she] put away.”
“I then decided to start performing [again] and was embraced by the Filipino-Canadian community with open arms,” she said. “I was humbled and blessed with all the support I got.”
Performing opened a lot of opportunities for Josie to share her talents in concerts and shows. She was even featured on a weekly television show and became the Ambassadress of Gawad Kalinga. She became a a multi-awarded Filipino-Canadian, having received awards such as Most Outstanding Filipino, Most Beautiful Filipino, Courage for Women’s Awards, and she became one of the Absolutely Fabulous Women awardees.
Josie got invited to perform back home in the Philippines, in the United States, and other locations in Canada. Her many invitations led her to re-discover more than her passion for the performing arts, but it gave her a second chance at love as well.
“That re-born career led me to meet a Filipino-Canadian Music Producer Mark Crescini. Not only did he support me in my career, but we both had the same vision in music,” Josie shared. “Marrying him was not a hard decision for me at all.”
The couple got married in March 2011.
School of Performing Arts
Just a few months after the couple got married, they decided to open a performing arts school.
Josie shared, “A lot of people urged me to put a school and teach and with the support of my husband—who pretty much speaks the same language—we both decided to put up the Josie de Leon School of Performing Arts in October 2011.”
Josie and Mark knew that putting up a business will have its own set of challenges, but according to Josie, they “look at it as good challenges.” Their passion for performing arts and teaching is more than enough to keep them going.
When they started receiving tons of support for the JDL School of Performing Arts, Mark and Josie decided that it’s time to focus more on their school, so they gave up their full-time jobs.
“Mark and I love teaching the kids,” Josie said. “I am happy to see the kids improve whenever they perform on stage and become better and better every time. We love what we do and I think that’s what makes it work.”
The school focuses on kids who want to develop their confidence on stage in singing, dancing, and acting. Their decision to focus on their school has proven worthwhile. Today, they have two campuses—one in Mississauga and one in Scarborough—a few branches now on its way to being a reality.
Preserving Filipino Heritage
Filipinos are born performers and for Josie, this is part of her Filipino heritage.
“Being Filipino in the work environment is something I am very proud of,” she pointed out. “We Filipinos are good workers. We are very conscientious of our job, we are very considerate, we are very giving and thoughtful, we are very responsible. We also love to laug, [so] it usually brightens up other people’s day when we share a good laugh or two.”
Josie never fails to share her Filipino heritage with her friends and students, and her performances stay true to her roots.
“I enjoyed working with the Filipino-Canadian community and [I am] humbled by [their] love and support,” she said.
Having been in Canada for over 18 years, Josie shares that moving to Canada has been one of the best decisions she’s ever made.