BINI Jhoanna is The Feminist P-Pop Leader We Need Right Now
When BINI released their “Da Coconut,” they struck a chord with an audience who’ve been used to all the solo female acts and the continuous images of girl crush, badassery, and maximalist concepts the past few years. All eight members donned bright summer outfits and natural-looking makeup to the background of an outdoor garden. It was simple and straightforward yet it was what we needed at the time.
Little did they know, this set a precedent for what BINI is today: The P-Pop girl group that celebrates their femininity in every concept. While they’ve solidified themselves with Bubblegum Pop, the girls are not afraid to venture into other concepts and showcase their different sides.
They may sing about “first loves” and “kilig” but they also showcase themes of independence and empowerment. They can style themselves in cutesy, colorful, Jolina Magdangal-esque ways but they’re not afraid to be fierce, sleek, and stylish. Through BINI, we realize that a modern girl doesn’t have to stick to one “thing” nor should we box ourselves into certain “aesthetics.”
And leading this girl group is Jhoanna, who—aside from being the leader—serves as the group’s Lead Vocal and Rapper. Despite being the second youngest in the group, she was chosen as leader, and it’s so clear as to why. Dubbed “Master Jho” by fans—the BLOOMs, the way she carries herself with such an aura of confidence and speaks with such eloquence and clarity makes you easily clock her in as one. She’s the type of person that talks and you really listen. And more importantly than that, she’s passionate about not only their performances and music but their main message: To champion the modern Filipina.
In our conversation with Jhoanna, this masterful leader talks about the power of girl groups, femininity on their own terms, and what it means an empowering figure in P-Pop.
Q: Can you tell me what it means to be a leader in a P-Pop group? What kind of roles and responsibilities do you have? Are there certain traits and qualities necessary for this?
Jhoanna: Maraming nagsasabi, “Ay, madali lang ‘yan! Sasayaw at kakanta lang naman d’yan!” No. ‘Yung mag-lead ako ng seven girls na karamihan ay mas matatanda sa’kin, hindi siya madali.
For me, dapat as a leader, matatag ka. Ikaw ‘yung magiging foundation ng grupo. Dapat madali kang lapitan. Gusto ko sa lahat ng bagay, pantay kaming lahat. Hindi man ako ‘yung pinaka-magaling sa group at pangalawa sa pinaka-bata, pero alam ko na I have the qualities of being a leader at kung bakit mataas ang respeto nila sa’kin.
Q: It’s tough to introduce a new genre like “P-Pop” to an audience that has been used to a certain sound in OPM and gravitates towards established artists. Tell me about the reality of introducing this new wave of music.
Jhoanna: Mahirap. Marami pa rin sa atin ang hindi bukas sa ganitong idea. Palagi nilang sinasabi na trying hard kami to be like K-Pop when, in fact, kapag pinakinggan mo naman ang music ng P-Pop, may sariling sound ang P-Pop.
Challenging talaga especially sa girl groups. Dito sa Pinas, mas harsh ang judgement sa mga babae. Kapag sweet o cute ang music, masasabihan na “pabebe.” Kapag nagpakita ng skin o medyo sexy ‘yung galaw, masasabihan ng ‘di magagandang salita. Kapag maangas, pwede naman masabihan na ang “feeling.”
Finding our voice and our music was not easy. Ang ma-accept ng local audience for our mix of sweet and palaban was really a challenge. ‘Yung evolution namin as BINI, nagsisimula pa lang.
Q: Being overly feminine has been demonized and been all-around not taken seriously. But with BINI, there’s a very feminine approach to its concepts and the group embraces and celebrates its femininity. Do you have experiences with this kind of thing and embracing femininity (and even defining it in your own way)?
Jhoanna: Noong kasisimula pa lang namin as BINI, maraming nagsasabing “pabebe” raw kami dahil sa concept and branding namin as a group. Pero hindi namin sila pinakinggan and tinuloy lang namin ‘yung ginagawa namin hanggang sa naging parang branding na ‘to ng BINI.
Sabi nga sa bio ng social media namin, “BINI is an eight-member modern Filipina composed of young, modern Filipinas who aspire to share their talent and passion to the world.” Kaya kami as BINI, ayaw namin na naka-kahon. We do bubblegum pop pero we also like mga anthemic music. Gusto din namin ng mga kantang empowering other Filipina.
We are both delicate and strong. Pwede kami umiyak pero marunong din kami lumaban. We are strong and aware, and gagamitin namin ang boses namin to empower other women, other Gen Z’s, and dreamers like us.
Q: Back when we interviewed you for the Woman’s Month Issue in 2022, you and your members mentioned having a touch of Pinoy in your music. What does it mean to have a touch of Pinoy in the music?
Jhoanna: We go back to our roots and incorporate as many Filipino references as we can para mas makilala ng current generation ang sining natin. We’ve used indigenous instruments sa Born To Win. We were inspired by Philippine Mythology kaya may three worlds ang Born To Win: Anagolay, Sodop, at Mayari.
Kung may chance, we try to bring our audience sa mga lugar na masarap balikan sa Pilipinas.
We write our own songs based sa mga karanasan, emotions, aspirations namin, o ng mga taong nakapaligid sa amin. It’s the Filipino stories. It’s our stories.
Q: There’s a different kind of expectation for female artists and celebrities—this need to be “perfect” and be your best self at all times. It’s common to be more forgiving to men vs. the expectations placed on women. What’s your POV on this?
Jhoanna: To be honest, I am happy na hindi nakukulong ang mga girl groups sa ganitong idea. Hindi kami takot magkamali and maybe because of our supporters na tinutulungan din kaming mag-grow. Trainees palang kami, nakikita na nila sa mga livestream namin who we are as idols and as a normal person. Also, parang mas accepted na ngayon ang flaws—No, mas gusto ng fans na makita ang flaws because it makes us real people.
I guess we have a healthy relationship and understanding sa P-Pop industry kaya malaya lang kaming nakakapag-explore sa craft namin and no pressure.
Q: You were the cover of the Women’s Month issue last year, and the concept centered around being strong women persevering. For this year’s Women’s Month issue, we had KAIA, and the concept was more on the female artist experience. So, I wanted to ask your thoughts on this. What does it mean to be a girl group now in 2023?
Jhoanna: Sobrang driven ang mga girl groups natin ngayon. Hindi ‘yan nakikita sa age. Mas may lakas kami ng loob to voice out our opinions. We are aware and informed sa mga nangyayari sa paligid namin. Best thing about P-Pop girl groups, we know we can give the same value, if not more, as other Filipino artists. Mapa-boy groups man yan, Pinoy rappers, or power belters.
Aware din kami sa mga kahon, misconceptions, and limitations na tingin sa aming mga babae, and we will break away from those norms. Interacting with the other P-Pop girl groups, I think we think alike.
Q: Where do you want to see P-Pop girl groups in the future? What are your hopes and dreams for female artists?
Jhoanna: Sana mas dumami pa ang girl groups natin. Sana hindi sila matakot sa judgements dahil your talent will bring you there. Hindi tayo basta babae lang. We are empowered women, and we will make a change sa music scene.
Don't miss Jhoanna and the Nation’s Girl Group, BINI, as they take the stage at the highly anticipated PPOPCON MANILA 2023 this July 14 to 16 at Araneta City. Secure your tickets now at TicketNet Online or through TicketNet outlets nationwide.
Additionally, don't forget to grab a limited edition copy of our #TheLeadersIssue at parcinqmarketplace.com. You can either claim it at the PARCINQ booth during the P-POP
Produced by Parcinq Team in collaboration with PPOPCON
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Art Direction by Joe Andy
Production Coordination by Chardy Baldoza
Features Writers Queenie Cailing and Marielle Filoteo
Communications Manager: Rhanica
Production Manager: Arby
Artist Coordinator: Jessette
Content Producer: Erica
Team Rain X Em
Fashion Film By Ian Francisco
Video Associate Pogs Francisco
Camera Operator Anghel Millar
Gaffer Edward Logorta
Set Design by Rabbit Hole Creatives
Food Sponsors: Illo’s Party Trays, The Sandwhich Guy
Elemental Cafe Iced Coffee
Studio Partner Siren Studios