Filipino celebrities

‘Sell the story, not the love team’: Fans weigh in on relevance of love teams today 

Rappler Entertainment Team

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‘Sell the story, not the love team’: Fans weigh in on relevance of love teams today 
While the love team route has catapulted many Filipino celebrities to fame, a handful of them have also shared the downsides to being part of a pair

MANILA, Philippines – From Guy and Pip, to Marvin and Jolina, to AlDub, KathNiel, and DonBelle – love teams have been a staple in Philippine pop culture. 

Although Hollywood and other Asian countries also have their versions of celebrity pairings, Filipinos have taken it up a notch by having these pairs headline projects together practically all of the time.

It’s rare to see actors who are part of a love team, especially the more established ones, working on a project without their anointed partner. And while this love team route has catapulted many Filipino celebrities to fame, a handful of them have also been candid about the trials of being known as half of a pair all throughout their career. 

We asked our Rappler readers if love teams are still relevant today – and here’s what they had to say in our comments section, including none other than actor Marvin Agustin: 

A stepping stone to success

“‘Love team’ is another term for screen partner. When the pairing is successful, there will be more projects that will be given or offered to them,” actor Marvin Agustin replied on Rappler’s callout post.

The sentiment comes from the star’s own experience. After being paired for the first time with Jolina Magdangal in the 1996 teen series Gimik, the two worked together in several more projects, including Esperanza, Labs Ko Si Babe, Flames: The Movie, Kung Ayaw Mo Huwag Mo, and Labs Kita, Okey Ka Lang. 

“For me, being paired with Jolina was one of the highlights of my career as an actor. Madaming nagbukas na (It opened a lot of) opportunities for me, even outside the entertainment industry. And I will be forever thankful to everyone na sumuporta sa’kin at kay [love team] (who supported me and my love team),” he continued. 

Nadine Lustre, who rose to fame with her reel-to-real partner, actor and singer James Reid, had previously acknowledged that being in a love team was “something a lot of celebrities really go through.” 

“It’s not a bad thing, though. A love team is a partnership. If you’re in a love team, you can pull each other up. It’s really teamwork,” she said in a 2022 interview.

Rappler readers echoed the sentiment, saying that being part of a love team was a way to get more recognition in a competitive entertainment industry, especially since most love teams are formed based on undeniable chemistry. 

Once they’re well-received by fans and have started a solid following, it’s easier for entertainment companies to market them and package them as a brand that would be easily recognizable in mainstream media. 

Nadine and James, for example, had their own respective showbiz careers before they became the JaDine tandem, but it wasn’t until they were paired that their careers flourished – starring in several films and television series together. The same goes with Alden Richards, who had been in the industry for a while before he was thrust into the spotlight through AlDub, his accidental pairing with Maine Mendoza.

Filipinos’ penchant for kilig and romance drives producers and entertainment companies to always be on the lookout for the next big love team. Especially because such pairings also establish a loyal fanbase – even mounting events as a show of support for their favorite tandem. 

When done right, this loyalty from fans spans the actors’ careers. Marvin and Jolina, for example, might have been one of the leading love teams from the 1990s, but their tandem is still well-loved by fans even decades later, with some even clamoring for a reunion project for the two.  

Time to shift the narrative

While there’s no denying how powerful and influential love teams can be in a star’s career, other Rappler readers think that it’s an outdated aspect of the entertainment industry. 

“(But it’s) outdated. Dapat dini-develop ang aktor sa pamamagitan ng exposure sa iba’t-ibang environment (An actor should be developed by being exposed to different environments),” one comment read. 

Another said: “Sell the story, not the love team. Kaya sikat mga Korean dramas kasi maganda na story, magaling pa ang actors kahit sino pa kapartner nila (That’s why Korean dramas are famous. Not only do they have good stories, but their actors are good even if they have different partners).” 

Several readers also pointed out that love teams are constricting to an actor’s career, noting that some celebrities are only memorable because of their loveteam, and not because of their acting skills and talent. “It limits everything. Actors can’t be flexible enough to have chemistry with other actors because a (love team) fandom exists,” one said. 

“We’re shifting from that to a more interesting twist to the formula. We want thought-provoking narratives, not just one-dimensional kilig shows,” another fan said.

Such views are also reflected by some Filipino celebrities.

In a vlog with Bea Alonzo, Liza Soberano opened up how her acting capabilities are now being discredited just because she’s trying to establish herself as a solo actress. 

“Love team is a phenomenon [that is] only created in the Philippines, and it only exists in the Philippines. To box a woman like that is so dangerous for mental health and growth,” she said. 

She continued, “Everything that I’m trying to do now as a solo artist is not being taken seriously, or is not being respected, and it’s seen as something that is negative. They think that I am some kind of wild child now, just because I am not in a love team or I’m not seen around the same constantly when it is not normal.” 

In a 2017 blog post, Solenn Heussaff also shared her thoughts on love teams, saying that some of her friends who have been part of it have expressed the downsides to being in one. 

“You want to act with different people, because you learn from every new person you act with. But when your love team is too strong and you get a job where you have to act with someone else or you have to be the love interest of a different person, someone gets attacked,” she said. 

Solenn added, “Sometimes, it even gets to the point when the actors in the love team lose a sense of who they are, because they’re trying so much to portray themselves as a couple both on-screen (which is okay) and in real life (which is not okay if it’s being forced on them).” 

For several Rappler readers, the way Filipino fans view love teams should also change. 

“The problem is when some viewers begin to blur the difference between reel life and real life. Nagkakaroon na ng unrealistic expectations na ‘yung magpares na artista ay magkakatuluyan sa totoong buhay (There are already unrealistic expectations that these celebrities paired on-screen will be together in real life),” one comment read. 

Historically, the success of love teams mainly depend on the possibility of real-life romance. These reel pairings are often expected to take their professional relationship to the next level. Fans also tend to treat these celebrity pairs as their property, with many of them scrutinizing how these pairs act on- and off-camera.

In 2017, Maine even penned an open letter to fans to ask for “freedom,” emphasizing that she and love team partner Alden are nothing more than good friends.

“But I need to be honest, I am at this point where I feel like I live in a box. I have not been able to do what I want and say what I feel because every time I try to express my thoughts and feelings, some of you tend to misapprehend and invalidate them in so many ways,” she said then. 

In 2022, she again talked about how several fans of her love team with Alden have deluded themselves into believing that she and Alden are married and have kids, even if she’s already engaged to Arjo Atayde. “I tried calling them out a couple of times already. Pero ayaw pa rin nilang maniwala (But they still won’t believe it),” she said. “Dumadating na lang ako sa point na nakakapagod na mag-explain (I’ve just reached the point where I’ve gotten tired explaining).” 

In Solenn’s blog post, she emphasized how it’s best for supporters to learn how to draw the line. “Let’s love the couple on-screen, but also respect them as individuals off-screen. We can love the work that they do as actors, and still support their individual lives.”

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