Texas Fil Am students prank McDonald’s for Filipino representation

Both JehvMaravilla (second from right) and Christian Toledo (second from left) got the surprise of their lives when TV host Ellen de Generes (extreme right) presented them with a facsimile check for $25,000 each to be in the next McDonald’s marketing campaign. (contributed photo)
University of Houston Fil Am students Christian Toledo (left) and JehvMaravilla posed in front of their prank poster which went unnoticed for 51 days inside their favorite McDonald’s Pearland branch. (contributed photo)

At the start of the year, Filipino American actor Darren Criss won as the 76th Golden Globe awardee as Best Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace”  and dedicated his  award to his Filipina Cebuana mom CerinaBru after which he proudly declared, “this has been a marvelous year for representation in Hollywood, and I’m so enormously proud to be a teeny tiny part of that as the son of a firecracker Filipino woman.”

But in July 2018 or some six months ago, two Filipino Americans in Pearland, Texas boldly hung their pictures at their favorite McDonald’s branch after they noticed that although there are many posters there, none included Asians.

JehvMaravilla is all dressed up as McDonald’s crew staff member so they can hang their prank poster in a Pearland, Texas McDonald’s branch. (contributed photo)

So the duo, University of Houston students JehvMaravilla, 21, and his friend Christian Toledo, 25 bought McDonald gears at a local thrift store and created badges, took some pictures of themselves and hung a fake marketing poster with their picture at a blank wall that stayed for 51 days.

Maravilla twitted about the incident together pictures of the prank they created and the tweet went viral

After the incident, McDonald got both of them to appear for $50,000 on marketing campaign in the food chain’s effort and commitment for diversity and the announcement for the appearance was made in an Ellen de Generes show.

Interviewed through email after the announcement of their appearance in next McDonald’s marketing campaign, both Maravilla and Toledo exuded their genuine desire for representation very much like what actor Darren Criss passionately declared during that momentous awards night.

Asked on how the prank would influence experience Asian, particularly Filipino representations in American society, Maravilla hopes after the prank and gaining positive abundance of feedback for it that people want more representation.

“The United States is a melting pot of different cultures, so it’s about time for media to mirror that. For Filipinos, I hope this will give them hope as well! Seeing more of us in mainstream media can hopefully inspire them that they can be on there as well,”   explained Maravilla, whose parents hail from Southern Luzon, with mother coming from Nasugbu, Batangas and father is from Cavinti, Laguna.

Toledo believes, as Maravilla also do, that this is just a part of a bigger movement much like what blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians director Jon Chu and actress Constance Wu described what their movie was all about.

“I would say this is just a reminder that we are here and these issues still exist. We can use whatever we have and no one has to get hurt or offended to make a point,” claims Toledo whose parents come from Kawit, Cavite and who also went to college at the University of the Philippines – Manila (UPM) graduating with a degree in Philippine Arts Major in Arts Management and Cultural Heritage aside from having an MA in Media Studies Major in film at UP Diliman.

Talking further on the impact of Crazy Rich Asians, Maravilla thinks that if the movie can help change how Hollywood portrays how movies are casted, then a poster can help push that movement too in different aspects of media.

“Seeing that movie gives me hope that there is a future for Christian and I who want to work in the media production world; hopefully in Hollywood,” bats Maravilla who was talking with Toledo about the hit movie at that same McDonald’s outlet

“Even before it premiered how people were expecting it to become a movement and we wanted to join that movement. I loved the experience of watching it with other ethnicities because, in the end, all of us react the same way to the movie. It just shows that we don’t need stereotypes to make a good movie,” Toledo bared.

Going back to the prank experience, they recalled that they noticed the blank wall and the absence of Asians in the McDonald’s posters in said branch at the same specific table with blank wall for a month before they decided to do something

It was Maravilla who had the idea have their pictures taken and posted at that blank wall with the help of Toledo’s camera and editing skills. Maravilla thought it was an insane but an original idea but admitted he usually does crazy and unimaginable things like this making it such an exciting adventure.

“Diversity and representation is a big issue in the United States and even we felt that there was a need to do something about it. As media consumers and practitioners, we felt like if we could do quality work and use it for a cause, then why not?” Toledo stressed.

The whole span of the plan was about 2 months (June and July) with one month spent for planning/taking the pictures/editing, two weeks for poster delivery and another two weeks after before they scheduled the day with friends to hang it up.

Maravilla revealed that they never  had any thoughts of totally scrapping the whole thing because each problem they thought of had a solution they can make up. And although they did have hesitations, the rush of adrenaline and the support of their friends  Cassandra and Kaitlyn boosted them further.

“We only had hesitations the first day we thought about it. Then we thought of ways to make sure that we wouldn’t damage anything and no one would get hurt, not us, the customers and the employees. The other branding issues we also thought about like how to dress up with no logos and brands because Mravilla and I used to work for the same TV channel,” Toledo disclosed.

Maravilla’ describes as crazy how the past few months with prank really impacted his life as he learned much more about communication skills like networking and public speaking, and how much of an inspiration a 40-by-60-inch poster can be.

“It made me believe in the saying “Do what you love and everything will follow” or maybe I just got lucky. But one thing I know is that I won’t let this be a waste. We’ve always wanted to work for bigger film and TV companies and we know that starting is hard and frustrating but now we have a little slack to work with. What I love was meeting everyone on set and talking about how they got there and everyone always has a different story. There really is no one way to do things and everyone has a good story to tell,” Toledo depicted the whole experience.