She’s still the same girl

If you're a Swing Out Sister fan, you're probably singing, “Yes I am! Yes I am!” after reading that headline. “Am I Same Girl” is the iconic British pop group's fun and upbeat ditty, which became one of their massive hits in 1992. I'm putting it out here as I write about the upcoming 20th anniversary concert of multi-slashie Toni Gonzaga in January because it does seem like a perfect song to go with the show's concept.

To start with, the concert is titled “I Am…Toni,” and the A-List celebrity personally explained the reason for it herself at a grand media conference in Winford Casino Manila.

The multi-hyphenate will mount her 20th showbiz anniversary concert on her birthday in January 2023.

The multi-hyphenate will mount her 20th showbiz anniversary concert on her birthday in January 2023.

“That's the title of my concert because I realized that [as you go along] in showbiz, you will be defined by many people. Your co-worker, the press, by people you just met.

“Along the way, you'll get lost. Pero kapag tumagal ka na sa industriya ng ganito, you will realize you're still the same and haven't changed. I just became the person I was meant to be.”

No stranger to controversy and critics — not just in showbiz but in politics too as of late — Toni admitted, “Marami na rin akong iniyak sa two decades na ito pero ang kapalit naman nun ay blessing. Mas marami yung blessing kesa sa iniyak ko.”

Assessing her long and storied journey — from her beginnings at the “Metropop Star Search” singing contest in 1997, her evolution as a lounge singer, recording artist and eventually, top TV host and movie star — Toni also told The T-Zone that when it comes to being herself and being at her best, it is always when she has a microphone in hand.

“Parang naging sandata ko na rin yung mic,” she explained. “Kumanta man, mag-host o mag-clarify ng issue, kapag hawak ko yon, OK ako.”

It can be recalled that for many years, Toni had been the go-to-girl of ABS-CBN when it came to hosting their most important projects. Whether a game show, talk show or reality search, the witty and insightful bundle of energy always delivered and delivered skillfully.

But Toni quietly let go of her mic and hosting duties voluntarily for the network when she was criticized for joining the campaigns of politicians who were against ABS-CBN's franchise renewal. The extent of the bashing she received ranged from petty and hurtful to downright cruel, no matter whose side you're on, but Toni came out of it stronger.

Now back in the game as the most senior female talent of aggressive new player ALL TV, Toni chooses to remain mum about what happened and how she felt back then and, like her now-favorite hashtag, has decided to be #Unbothered.

“Sa mga haters and bashers, I am quiet. Silence is the best answer. No response is the best response,” she would rather reply when asked about her critics. “We are not a fighter. We are a lover. We only speak the things we love. I do not like speaking about hate so puro love lang tayo rito, puro pagmamahalan.”

Love is, after all, what keeps her thriving these days — love for and from her little family with director and now Presidential Adviser on Creative Communication Paul Soriano and son Seve; love for her enduring multi-platform career; love for her life choices and of course love for her fans.

“I really just grateful for where I am and what I'm doing right now, and I'm grateful to be able to do my anniversary concert on my birthday on January 20, 2023,” she exclaimed, adding, “What a journey! Thankful for the past, excited for the present and looking forward to the future.”

What a journey indeed from the same girl Toni G.

“I am Toni” is produced Joed Serrano's Godfather Productions and co-produced by Toni's mom Crisanta “Pinti” Gonzaga.

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