MANILA, Philippines - Charice Pempengco has a long list of achievements that belies her age. She turned just 21 this year, but she has already released three studio albums, several EPs and singles, and is actually famous enough to go by her first name.
Now, a recent change of image has made her subject to a lot of ridicule and criticism. In an interview with Boy Abunda last Sunday, Charice revealed that she is a lesbian. In conservative Catholic Philippines, the singer admits that her coming out is a risky move, but she says, “I did it for myself.”
Charice is unfazed by all of the negativity as the outpouring of love and support from people all over the world has eclipsed the bad. As we shot Charice for this Supreme spread, for example, a group of fans congregated across the street — all of them standing in the noontime heat just to catch a glimpse of the singer. Charice went out of her way to walk into the crowd and graciously thank them.
During the shoot, we also saw Charice softly singing a selection of songs, swinging her feet to her own beat, as though music was really a part of her entire being. She has an easy way about her, with jokes spilling effortlessly, and a silly mischievousness shining through her. You can see that there is a light about her, a twinkle in her eye that can only come from the kind of happiness that’s rooted deep within a person’s soul.
A look into Charice’s near future reveals a planned third album, dedicated to her fans in the Philippines. She then leaves for LA next month for a few other projects. “I’m very excited,” she says. “It’s going to be a busy year.”
One of her favorite tattoos is a chest piece she acquired last March. It says, “Let’s start with forever,” — a line from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga and is something she has dedicated to her girlfriend, Alyssa. Though Charice has many challenges ahead of her, there is a spark and determination in her eyes, an indication deeper than just her busy schedule that she intends to stay in the spotlight and sing.
* * *
What made you decide to publicly come out?
It was a risk, because I didn't know how people would accept me. But I did this for myself because I've always known that this is who I am. Basically, I wanted to be free; to go out of my house without anything to hide.
One of the things you said in your recent interview with Boy Abunda was to ‘always be true to yourself’. What has that meant for you?
I don't regret how I used to dress and fix my hair. I always think that the past was a challenge I needed to go through. And I'm not pushing anyone to come out of the closet. I didn't do what I did in order to say, "Hey, follow me." I hope what I did serves as an inspiration, but I understand if they don't want to follow in my footsteps. I understand. It's part of the situation. You don’t want to hide forever, but you will feel when it's the right time.
Were there any people in your life who inspired you, in turn, to come out?
Lots, but what really pushed me was me thinking to myself, “Okay, gagawin ko na.” See, before I came out on TV, I'd go to the mall looking like I do. Alyssa and I would go out. What pushed me was I saw that people didn't react. It was normal to them. When they'd see me, they'd see me as Charice. Of course, I heard other things, you can't avoid that. But most of the people just went, “Si Charice, o.” Wala nang karugtong.
What's most important to me is the reaction of Filipinos. Ever since I started showbiz here in the Philippines, there were a lot of naysayers. Sadly, most of them were Filipinos. What I did here, parang buwis-buhay naman talaga kasi either Filipinos love you or they don't accept you. So it's a big achievement for me that now, Filipinos are telling me, “we respect you.”
What do you hope for in the future for yourself and other people?
I hope someday, sexual preference will no longer be a big deal. Like, when you see people, you won't need to ask them. You wont' need a confirmation, you know? Whatever you see is what it is, and people are equal, basically. That's what I want for everyone. I know this will happen. The time will come.
What do you want to tell your fans?
Of course, thank you so much. Thank you. As I said in the interview (with Boy Abunda), I thought many people would turn their backs on me, but I was wrong. My fans are still here, or they've increased, and I'm very thankful that this has been the result. Thank you for the support.
Are you working on anything new?
I still have one month here in the Philippines and I’m thinking of working on a third album because I've only released two albums in the Philippines, and it's been a while. So gusto ko mag-release ng isa pang album dito para naman bago ako umalis, may maiwan man lang ako sa fans ko dito. I’m very excited kasi kakausap na ako ng mga ilang producers and everything.
Yung idea is gusto kong ilagay yung lahat ng mga favorite songs ko na gusto kong i-share at gawan ng sarili kong version. And then, I’ll go back to LA. We’re recording something, so it’s going to be a busy year.
How do you want to be remembered?
I just want to be remembered as Charice, the singer. Nasabi ko na yung dapat kong sabihin about me and other things, so let’s just move on and focus on what I share with people, which is my music and my voice. So, sana, yun nalang.
* * *
Tweet the author @presidents.
Photos by CHOLO DELA VEGA
Produced by DAVID MILAN
Makeup by JANINA DIZON for L’Oreal Professionnel
Hair by DONALD LAPEZ