Celebrating Filipino Culture With Jules Aurora

With ethnic roots from the Philippines to California, a second-generation singer,  actress, model and influencer Jules Aurora has brought diversity and passion to the community. Fighting with the uniqueness of her culture from a young age, Jules struggled to connect to her inner self. Through music and the power of believing in oneself, she has flourished into a multifaceted artist that represents the underrepresented. Jules has performed for major sports franchises such as the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Dodgers and the US Women’s National Soccer Team. She has also opened for Grammy Award-winning artist, Macklemore, and became a top 50 finalist on The X Factor and Hollywood Week Finalist on American Idol.

With respect to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage, Jules aspires to connect with the younger generation and the world itself in bringing more diversity to the community.  “My wish is for non-Asians to try something Asian or to go support an Asian artist or go to a show ––and not just during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, but all year long.

Tricia Love Vargas: What was life like growing up?

Jules Aurora: I come from a family of immigrants. My parents were both born in the Philippines and they came to the US when they were around 10 years old. I was born in New Jersey, and I grew up in San Diego – where I spent high school and college. What I love most about my heritage is the value we place on family.  I was always taught that family comes first and naturally, my family has always been a grounding force in my life. Both of my parents are extremely hard working, and they inspire me every day to continue to be resilient, as I strive to make my dreams a reality in the same way that they did. 

Tricia Love Vargas: Did you experience overcoming domestic discrimination?

Jules Aurora: Yeah, actually, a lot of that. We moved around a lot within San Diego; we probably moved around five times. And each school I went to—from elementary school to middle school to high school—was in a different school district. I had to learn quickly how to adapt and how to grow from uncomfortable situations. I went to a big high school and during my freshman year I really struggled to make friends and “fit in”.  It was really tough because I was probably one of the three Filipinos out of around 2,500 kids. I’ve never actually talked about this before, but there was a long time in high school when I just wanted to be everything that I wasn’t. I would highlight my hair to be blonde, try to stay out of the sun and try to wear whatever the “cool kids” were wearing. That’s also one of the main reasons why I gravitated towards music, because music was really where I found my place in high school. I won the singing competition at my school, started performing with the jazz band, and earning leading roles in the musicals. So then everybody would be like, “Oh, that’s the singer!” and from then on it’s been a big part of my identity. Music was always my escape, and where I found my place. 

Tricia Love Vargas: What advice would you give to someone who feels like an outcast due to living in a city lacking diversity?

Jules Aurora: Know that you are enough as you are. That is something that I – honestly, even in the past couple of years – have been consciously working on. I think that that would be my advice: to take the time to get to know yourself and embrace the things that make you different. Lots of journaling. Learning to be your own best friend and your own top advocate. Nowadays, all the things that people told me I could never do, I’m doing. So It’s possible—and I know it sounds cliche, but just believe in yourself and know that you’re not alone. Also I would say surrounding yourself with good people, good energy, people that lift you up, and those people who do believe in you, whether that be your family or your friends – makes a world of a difference. 

Tricia Love Vargas: When did you fall in love with the city of LA? How is it different from San Diego?

Jules Aurora:  In San Diego, I felt that I had exhausted everything that I could have done there. I performed for a lot of the major events/venues in San Diego throughout high school and college and I was like, “Okay, what’s next for me? I’m ready for more.” I moved to LA literally two weeks after I graduated college; I was just so determined to pursue my dreams that I actually graduated college in three years. There was one semester that I took 21 units and I thought, “Okay, I’m gonna get my degree. And then I’m just gonna go.” When I first moved to LA, I didn’t know a single person or anything about the industry.  I was also working a full time day job when I first started out. It was a rocky start because I had to build everything from scratch. It was a lot like my high school experience except on a much bigger scale. It’s definitely a tougher city to live in than San Diego, but living in LA and pursuing a career in entertainment has taught me so much. There’s also always been something magical about LA – the energy, the fast pace, and the way it motivates me to push forward. I think, ultimately, as an artist, LA is the place to be. There is still so much more of the journey ahead as well, and I’m excited to see where it all takes me.  At the end of the day, I’m really grateful for every opportunity and experience I’ve had in this city because It’s helped me grow both as a person and as an artist.

Tricia Love Vargas: Your parents had a role in you pursuing a degree? 

Jules Aurora: Personally, education is important to me too, and I am very proud of the fact that I can say I have a degree. But my parents definitely pushed me. If they had it their way during my college years, they would have had me go to law school and do music “on the side”. [laughs] I come from a family of lawyers and doctors and nurses and engineers; both my parents are engineers so pursuing a career in entertainment is something no one in my family had ever attempted or dreamed of, until I did. 

Tricia Love Vargas: After you graduated from college and began working full time, you went on to work at Royal Caribbean as a performer. What was this experience like for you?

Jules Aurora: That was the first job that took me out of my nine to five routine because it was the first job where I was getting paid to perform consistently. Honestly, it was probably the biggest growing experience I had as a vocalist. I was honing my craft so much because we were doing shows 5-6 times a week. I was just constantly in front of a huge audience, and I got really comfortable on stage.

It was a good way to practice being under pressure as well. I learned to really take care of my voice. I also learned about endurance, consistency and stage presence. It helped me a lot––now it’s become second nature for me to be on stage because I was doing it so much. And I’m really grateful for it. 

Also, the cruise ship chapter of my life was when I really started doing covers online and putting myself out there. I would be in my cabin making short videos with my ukelele every single day during my downtime. That’s when I started building a following and it just grew from there. So it’s crazy what you can do. Nowadays, with the internet, you really do have so much opportunity to just create. And, you know, a lot of people think that they’re stuck, but I think there’s always something that you can do to move forward. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that I learned from working on the ship. Creating the consistent covers on my downtime actually helped catapult me to the next level in a way that I didn’t expect when I first went into the job.

Tricia Love Vargas: You began building your social media thereafter over time, was there one in particular that went viral?

Jules Aurora:  There were a few posts that went viral back then because it wasn’t as saturated as it is now, but I would say that it was a consistent buildup. The Disney Princess songs are the ones that always got the most views, and people started to recognize me for singing those songs. Every time I sang “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana,  “a Whole New World”, from Aladdin, or “Reflection,” from Mulan – those always resonated a lot with my audience, and they still do!

One thing that still gets me though, is that I never had a princess that looked like me while I was growing up. I think that made a huge impact on why I was so insecure when I was a teenager and why I always struggled with loving my Filipina features for a long time. I’m happy that things are gradually changing, but I still think there is so much further to go as far as representation for Filipinos and Southeast Asians. I think it’s important for little girls to feel like they’re princesses too and they’re beautiful too. I just really hope to be part of that representation for the next generation. That’s something that I really strive to achieve through my work and through everything that I’m a part of. 

Tricia Love Vargas: What are some of the Filipino dishes that you love?

Jules Aurora: I think my favorites would have to be Sinigang and I also love Chicken Adobo. For dessert, I love anything that’s ube flavored. They make these cookies called Ube Crinkles and they are just the best! Must try.  

Tricia Love Vargas: Do you have any exciting projects coming up as well?

Jules Aurora: Yes! I’m actually part of a new musical film that’s led by a Filipino-American cast. I play one of the supporting leads, and we are currently still in the middle of shooting. It’s been really fun working with an amazing team on a project that can help with more representation in Hollywood.  

I also have two new singles on the way that I just wrote. So stay tuned for those!  

You can stay up to date with everything on my social media @JulesAurora!  

I’m just always creating and working on my craft, whether it be acting or music or modeling or all the above. 

Tricia Love Vargas: What do you want your legacy to be?

Jules Aurora:  I want to be a voice for the next generation and I want to be a part of the movement to create more diversity and representation in the industry.  One of my dreams is to play a leading role and a strong, powerful, and independent character. I want to challenge the norms and help contribute to more visibility for the Filipino American community. I’ve also yet to see a full Filipino on screen or on stage at the Grammys. I just want the next little girl to see herself on screen or on stage and be inspired. My dream is for our voices to be heard, our stories to be told, and for the next generation to know that they are seen and recognized! 

My purpose and my “why” is always evolving, but to me, my biggest goal is just to help make a positive impact through my art and my work.

Interview by Tricia Love Vargas

Photography by: Don Sercer

Creative Director & Wardrobe Stylist: Alessandra Jessica Leo

Makeup Artist: Nicole Bagolin

Photo Editor: Valentina Bisco

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