Here are a few facts about Dylan Vizcarra, the always-articulate, tattoo-sporting, devastatingly cute host of Jack TV’s lifestyle program The Peep Show:
She is a cyborg of sorts, with a metal pin in her right leg—a souvenir of a recent horrific skateboarding accident that left her with a spiral fracture, a couple of scars, and a valuable life lesson (the lesson being, well… don’t drink and skate).
She is the kind of person who would use words like “tomfoolery” and “shenanigans” in her writing without seeming pretentious or raising suspicions of time travel. She has also been known to invent words like “flabberfont” when the existing lexicon is insufficient.
Her real name is Karen; she has an identical twin named Karla. (All of you reading this who just had thoughts along the lines of “Oh, boy! Twice the fun!”—just put the magazine down and walk away; we don’t want your kind in here.) Once upon a time, when they were both in college, Karen in La Salle and Karla in Ateneo, they decided to switch places for a day. They look so much alike that everyone was fooled—from the basketball players wishing “Karla” a happy day-after-your-birthday to the teachers who chastised “Karen” for talking too much in class and who forced “Karla” to deliver a report that she had no clue about.
I learn a few more things about her when I meet her one drizzly Thursday evening in a coffee shop on Bonifacio High Street.
First thing I notice: unlike any number of girls who need hours of prep time before a stroll to the corner sari-sari store or whose outfits require more planning than the invasion of a hostile neighboring country, she’s one of those people who somehow looks fantastic even just decked out in a gray hoodie, knee-length shorts, sneakers, and minimal-to-no makeup. Not “Hey look at me!” attention-hungry fantastic either; just quietly sipping-my-hot-chocolate fantastic.
Second thing I notice, as I sit down next to her and we start talking: not only does she look like a real girl, she also smells like a real girl. Stow the jokes please, and listen—this is a good thing. Instead of assaulting my long-suffering, overly sensitive senses with an overpowering artificial scent, she exudes a close-to-imperceptible natural but clean smell; it’s charming and somehow comforting, oddly reminiscent of childhood and, to belabor an adjective, real.
Of course, in the context of Karen a.k.a. Dylan, the word “real” can sometimes be complicated. “Dylan,” after all, is a persona—the ultimate rocker chick, in a way; the astig ‘bad girl’, brash and confrontational, unafraid of hosting big loud events or getting up in celebrities’ faces. First named during a 2003 stint as a DJ at NU 107, Dylan is, essentially, a different girl altogether, though she isn’t a complete fabrication. For example, they share a strong streak of genuine rebelliousness, or at the very least contrariness: an urge to kick against whatever she’s been told she should do. (Note: This is not your cue to go up to her at a gig and say, “Hey Dylan! DON’T go out on a date with me!” It is not going to work, you sad, sad man.)
And then there are the tattoos. They’re central to Dylan’s image: the huge Celtic and Polynesian designs on her right arm, especially, have become a trademark (“They’re both more famous than myself,” she says). But when she breaks out her box of tattoo equipment during our conversation and starts gushing about how she’s learning how to become a tattoo artist herself (and in fact has already tattooed four different people so far, under the apprenticeship of Alex, Sid, Drix and Ricky Sta. Ana of Skinworkz), the wide-eyed enthusiasm—the joy over finding an art form that could become a lifelong pursuit—is Karen’s. The quip about “Smooth young men stripping for me!” with accompanying cackle is, one imagines, pure Dylan.
As much as Karen feels she owes to the Dylan persona though, one wonders about the toll that being Dylan takes—the unwritten factor in the classic Sex Drugs and Rock n’ Roll formula is, after all, the crash, the burn, the self-destruction. All too familiar—but, perhaps, not necessarily inevitable. “Maybe I can find a nice balance,” Karen muses.
Dylan is, as she puts it, something of a “larger than life version” of Karen—she’s the one haters on the internet like to bitch about, the one TV watchers and radio listeners will continue to drool over through 2009 (her show on Jack TV is ongoing, and she’ll be returning to NU this year). She’s not sure how long she’ll be doing the hosting thing, though—she knows it can’t last forever, and she has no desire to do the acting thing (“No offense to all the good actors and actresses out there.”) She blogs and writes the occasional magazine article, among other things, but she’s not so sure about her writing either—even though anyone who reads her can tell that she has a definite talent with words, with turn of phrase and pun, with anecdote and deep thought lightly delivered. What she wants is to get into stuff that feels meaningful and true to her, that might have more of a lasting impact; right now she does her best to do pro bono hosting gigs for benefits and charities.
Ultimately, she can picture herself settling down and living by a beach somewhere, with a dog and maybe a husband (she’s not sure about the husband, but the dog seems to be a definite). It sounds like a very un-Dylan daydream, but it does seem very much like something Karen would want. After, of course, extensive travel and saving the world.
And all too soon, it’s closing time and we head out onto the street. A nod and a smile and a quick tugging of her hood over her head, and she’s off—no hangers-on, no sycophants, just Karen lugging her bag and her tattoo kit, hailing a cab in the light rain, and heading back into her colorful and ordinary, mundane and mind-boggling life.
// Interview by Luis Katigbak. This piece originally appeared in UNO Magazine’s Jan – Feb 2009 issue.
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