A MOMENT WITH LEILENE ONDRADE
By Andrew Moreno
It's that time again; VH1 is gearing up for its third
rendition of Flavor of Love. The action-packed
series is back, with a new set of girls eager to win
the heart of their prince, Flavor Flav. As Americans
continually tune in every week to watch the drama
unfold, audience members cannot help but identify
with certain cast mates. There is bound to be a
drama queen, the troublemaker, the diva, and yet
somewhere between the fights and name calling,
we find our diamond in the rough. She is that one
contestant that stands out from the others. She is
the one with the tender spirit, gracious humility,
lovable sense-of-humor, and that killer smile. I
think you would agree that without Leilene
Ondrade, aka "Smiley," Flavor of Love and Charm
School would not be the same.
After being asked by our readers to interview the contestants of Flavor of Love, I was
continually asked to interview "Smiley." Leilene is a well-articulated, mature, and kind
woman whose efforts on Charm School and Flavor of Love were simply to better her
personally and find love.
Leilene Ondrade's most recent work was the smash hit on VH1's Charm School where
she took second place on the season finale. Hosted by MoNique, who was the
headmistress of an all-girls school of etiquette, the girls were sent back to school to clean
up their act. Leilene returned as "Smiley," a name coined from her first foray onto VH1's
successful Flavor of Love. In addition to her return to VH1, Leilene has a lead role in the
feature film Hotel California where she plays opposite Tatyana Ali, Tyson Beckford, Erik
Palladino and Simon Rex. This past June (2007), she began production on the
independent film Players School.
Leilene grew up in Toronto, Canada and was a complete tomboy throughout childhood.
To teach Leilene more lady-like manners, her mother persuaded her to enroll in the Judy
Welch School of Modeling, which produced the likes of Linda Evangelista and Monika
Schnarre. Leilene then shed her boyish ways and embarked on a successful modeling
career in Canada where she was considered one of their "Premiere Glamour Models."
Leilene had the honor of being the only woman of color to ever place in an Italian beauty
pageant. It was only a matter of time before Leilene packed her bags and moved to Los
With her exotic, sultry beauty and magnetic personality, Leilene was asked to appear on
2005's WWE Raw Diva Search which was followed by a stint on Spike TV's TNA Wrestling
and their pay-per-view specials. She has also appeared in the feature films Detroit City,
New Line Cinema's Harold and Kumar go to White Castle and as Dennis Rodman's
dream girl in Bad as I Wanna Be.
In her downtime, Leilene loves the extreme side of life. She has not only learned the art
of fire-eating and bull-whipping, but does Russian Martial Arts and is trained in ancient
Chinese discipline of Wushu. She's all about organic food and considers herself a geek
at heart. To learn more about Leilene, please visit her site at www.leilene.net.
Moreno: Leilene, thanks for joining me today. America last saw you at the VH1's
Charm School Reunion Show. Since that time, what have you been up to?
Ondrade: I've been doing some meet and greets across the US, doing some television
hosting with NBC’s Your LA, and continuing to do more modeling on the catwalk and on
Moreno: You’ve had an interesting career thus far, from WWE Diva to a Reality
TV Star; where/when did your passion for entertainment begin?
Ondrade: I actually started off doing ballet when I was younger with the National Ballet
School of Canada, performing the Nutcracker. I didn’t really think much of the modeling or
the acting or even being in front of the TV when I moved to the U.S. In fact, three years
ago I actually wanted to be a medical clinical esthetician. While living in Canada I was
busy taking care of my kids and [modeling and acting] was just a hobby that I did.
Moreno: What was life like growing up?
Ondrade: I was born in Toronto, Canada. I was pretty rebellious. I even got sent to the
Philippines for bad behavior. I used to party a lot when I was a teenager and I got into
fights with my teachers. I remember I even slammed a book on top of the teacher’s son’s
head because he got me angry. I’ve honestly grown out of that and am more mature.
Moreno: I was told that you were a "tom-boy" at one time. What did you do that
made everyone think this?
Ondrade: Well, when I was younger most of my friends were all boys and they pretended
they were wrestlers. I was Hulk Hogan and everyone else was the heel. I also used to fish
for frogs with my cousins in the Philippines during vacation. I never had a Barbie growing
up; I actually had Transformers and wrestling figures. It was just my preference. I didn't
grow out of it; I still have more male friends. I enjoy import car racing, martial arts, still
love wrestling and I only play with Barbie Dolls because my daughter Angelina likes it.
Moreno: What's your relationship like with your parents? Are you close?
Ondrade: I did not have a relationship with my dad. I honestly don't know him because he
was never around. My mother was the one that raised me and when she died of cancer it
was the hardest thing for me to deal with, but it made me a lot stronger. I was the closest
to my mom, she taught me to always be prepared; to have a plan; and that dreams can
Moreno: After you moved to the States from
Toronto, you quickly made a name for yourself
within the wrestling arena. How did you come
about being a WWE Diva?
Ondrade: My friend Cassie sent me an email that
asked readers if they had what it takes to be the
next Raw Diva. I remember growing up, and my
grandfather and I watched WrestleMania. I used to
pretend to play in the school yard. I figured it would
be a really great experience, so I gave it a try.
Moreno: There's been a lot of conversation regarding professional wrestling
recently. How did you find the "behind the scenes" area to be?
Ondrade: Behind the scenes everyone was cordial and so professional. They were
backstage just prepping. It's a serious business and you have to know what you are
doing or it's likely you will be injured.
Moreno: Do the fans and professional wrestlers still see Chyna (Joanie Laurer)
as the supreme WWE Diva?
Ondrade: Isn't Joanie Laurer awesome? I saw her during the Comedy Central Roast of
Flava Flav and she just commanded the red carpet. She made me believe whatever a
man can do, a woman can do it too, maybe even better. I love how she even fought her
Moreno: We cannot talk about Leilene without talking about "Smiley." For those
readers who are not aware, Leilene took on the role of "Smiley" on VH1’s Flavor
of Love. What's it like working and living with Flava Flav?
Ondrade: "Smiley" was just a nickname. There was no role or acting; that was really me.
Flav just couldn't remember people's names. Flav is such a sweetheart, totally eccentric,
but that's what makes him captivating. He actually cares and is genuine and sincere.
Moreno: When the cameras are not rolling, do all the girls get along? Or is what
we see on TV the real deal?
Ondrade: What you see on TV is the real deal. Trust me, it was the real deal when I told
everyone I used to be a dancer and that I was heartbroken from my failing marriage. At
that time I was still crazy about him. It's true that I have kids and my mom died of cancer.
The way everyone reacted was really an indication of who they were.
Moreno: I've been asked by some of your fans to ask you what "New York" is
really like. How did you find “New York” to be?
Ondrade: Working with "New York," she is definitely an over the top kind of girl. She's
very dramatic and competitive. She really didn't bother me as much as the other girls
because I wasn't in the house with her as long. In fact, I find her quite amusing.
Moreno: What about "Hottie?"
Ondrade: Well, "Hottie" is "Hottie." Schaatar is cordial and professional but sometimes
she is so not from this planet, but overall she's really easy to get along with.
Moreno: How has your fame changed you?
Are you still the same person?
Ondrade: Fame? I don't even consider that. I'm still
very much normal. I go bowling with my kids, even
if I'm not good at it. I still enjoy hanging out by the
beach and I have the same friends. I think the only
thing that changed is that I took a brief cooking
Moreno: One of the great moments on the
Flavor of Love/Charm School series is that
viewers get to see the emotional and honest
side of your life. In one episode, you were
antagonized about your brief stint as an
exotic dancer. Your response was that you
took on that role to feed your family. What has
the reaction from your fans been?
Ondrade: My loyal friends and supporters of the show have been great. I think it's human
to make mistakes. Honestly, a lot of women, single moms, exotic dancers, women of color,
and I have to say the Asian community, took it well. I was really nervous about the Asian
community not being receptive to me since I'm Filipino and a lot of them are very
conservative. Everyone understood that it was something that I used to do and that I've
moved on to bigger and better things. They saw me transform right before their eyes.
Moreno: I imagine it must be difficult when doing Reality TV, that a lot of your
personal/private life is aired on national TV. How have you managed/dealt with
Ondrade: It has given me a new lease on life and a clean slate. If someone brings up
something about me, especially negative, a lot of people correct and inform them of their
[own] mistakes. [They might say,] "Like, her name is not "Smiley," it’s Leilene. Duh, where
have you been? It's like you didn’t know she used to dance, or she has kids, or she gave
up her mom's rings? I mean HELLO millions of people know this." Seriously, I've seen
people argue about this in front of me. I honestly don't think any of it is a big deal. I think
people know this because I'm just a bit more popular.
Moreno: Who are some of your favorite cast mates on Flavor of Love/Charm
Ondrade: I can’t choose, there are so many girls. My top three, in no particular order:
Moreno: What's one of the most important lessons you learned while on Charm
Ondrade: I learned not to choose the wrong guy and to stand up for myself. I pretty much
reconnected with my inner strength again. After losing my mom [and] dealing with
relationships, I lost some self-confidence and my sense of self. As crazy as it might seem,
I found myself on reality TV.
Moreno: I imagine you're an open-minded person that's easy to talk to. Do you
find people feel comfortable talking to you about their deeper issues?
Ondrade: It's funny because people actually come up to me and just hug me and they
are just happy to see me. I actually end up listening to a lot of people rather than talking.
They start telling me how they can relate to me and start opening up to me about who
they've lost in their life, life as a mother, being a dancer, and breaking up with someone.
Moreno: In your prayers, what do you ask God for?
Ondrade: I ask God for strength, wisdom, courage, and patience. And of course to bless
the ones I love.
Moreno: Complete this sentence: Happiness is being . . . ?
Ondrade: ...surrounded by the ones I love.
For more information on Leilene Ondrade visit www.Leilene.net
De novo Magazine would like to thank M. Downey at Shandrew PR for facilitating this interview.
A MOMENT WITH LEILENE ONDRADE