Coming off a role on Glee, and with a feature role in the hit film Here Comes the Boom, Philippines singing sensation Charice Pempengco comes to Honolulu for a concert this Saturday
Hold on to your seats, because Charice will blow you away. Charice Pempengco, the 20-year-old Filipina singer who in just five years has gone from an Internet sensation to sharing stages with Celine Dion at Madison Square Garden and Andrea Bocelli in Italy, and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show multiple times, brings her explosive voice to the Blaisdell Arena Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
In an exclusive interview with MidWeek, Charice says she has some surprises planned for her first solo show in Hawaii – part of her 2012 Infinity Tour. She reveals that local girl Cheesa Laureta, who also is a good friend of hers, is her opening guest act. You may remember Laureta, who grew up in Ewa Beach and Kalihi and attended Saint Francis School before moving to Los Angeles, as one of the finalists in last season’s The Voice on NBC. Also touring with Charice is Cheesa’s brother, Troy Laureta, who has been Charice’s musical director since 2009.
“My management, including David Foster, had an audition for my band, and it was just coincidence that Troy was there,” recalls Charice. “When I saw him I thought, thank God there’s a Filipino guy. It was meant to be for him to be part of my team, and that’s the way it all started.”
Often leaving her audience in goose-bumps, even tears, Charice has a gift that can be felt without even having to hear it live. Just watch any of her videos on YouTube, where she has 13 million-plus fans (and her videos together have had more than 94 million views). Oprah dubbed her the most talented girl in the world; her producer David Foster has said her singing is “numbing.”
One can only imagine how much more spectacular it must be live, and now fans in Hawaii will get to experience it for themselves. “The audience can expect a great mix of up-tempo pop and some contemporary ballads,” says Charice. “My goal is to create a very lively and high-energy show.”
This will be the pop star’s second trip to Hawaii. She was here a few years ago performing with other Filipino artists in the Wowowee concert at Aloha Stadium.
“I hope this time to see more of the island,” she says. “(Some of my favorite memories are) meeting the people, it feels like home to me. Maybe it’s the surroundings, but especially the people, the way they treated me, I felt like I was in the Philippines. I’m just very excited to go back there.”
Her amazing voice alone is powerful, but her life story makes her an even more inspiring young woman. Born Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco in San Pedro, Laguna, the Philippines, Charice has been singing since she was 4 years old. She and her younger brother, Carl, were raised by their single-mother, Raquel, who she credits as her strength and motivation.
By age 7, she was a regular at local singing competitions, often belting out hits from American music legends Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. Then, in 2007, a fan posted her TV performances on YouTube, including from talent shows Little Big Star in the Philippines and Star King in Seoul, Korea. The videos went viral, and soon Charice’s dreams started to come true, beginning with an invitation to The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she received standing ovations. She also appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and performed with 15-time Grammy-winning producer Foster, who took the young starlet under his wings and became her mentor.
More recently, she can be seen in the film Here Comes the Boom starring Kevin James and Salma Hayek, and a recurring role on the Fox hit TV show Glee, on which she played foreign exchange student Sunshine Corazon. She also played a featured role in Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, and says she hopes to do more acting in the future.
In 2010, she debuted her first self-titled album, and last October released her second international studio album, Infinity, in Asia followed by a U.S. release earlier this year. One of her songs, Note to God, became an instant top 10 iTunes hit after performing it on Oprah.
When Charice was first introduced to the world, she was a pretty, petite teen who appeared shy, grateful and at times overwhelmed by the amazing opportunities that were coming her way. But she’s also your typical 20-year-old, who enjoys spending time with her friends, watching movies (especially action and horror films), reading (her current book is Fifty Shades of Grey) and dancing. Her favorite karaoke song is My Way, which she says is the song people sing everywhere you go in the Philippines. She’s also very tech-savvy.
“I’m addicted to technology,” she says. “If you go to my house, you’ll see all the new gadgets everywhere. It’s like I’m crazy. The latest is the iPhone 5, the new iPod Touch and the iPod Nano.”
She also collects toy cars, such as Hot Wheels, and especially likes vintage models. As for the biggest purchase she’s made since becoming a professional singer, it’s the house she bought for her mother in the Philippines.
While fame and fortune have changed Charice’s life in many ways, including a move to the U.S. and allowing her to live a better life, being in the spotlight isn’t always easy.
“The fame and attention have been pretty hard to handle, but at the same time I always remind myself that, hey, you wanted this, you got to deal with it and move on,” she says “We only live once, and every time I wake up in the morning I thank God for my fans, and my haters, because they made me feel even stronger.
“I just started tweeting again recently. I stopped for awhile because I couldn’t handle reading some negative stuff. But I’ve realized that it’s not worth my time thinking about it, and I feel so much better. Now I just tweet and share my thoughts with everybody without reading a lot of negative stuff.”
She’s also extremely proud of her Filipino culture, and loves to eat Filipino food. Her favorite dishes are adobo and pak siw, which she cooks herself. “I don’t know if I’m good, but for me, it’s good,” she says.
These days, Charice spends her time between the Philippines and Los Angeles, and in between touring has been busy recording new songs. She remains loyal to her heritage and the culture of the Philippines, and is appreciative of the support she gets from around the world, including here in the Islands.
“Hawaii is a place that is very important to me, and I’m truly looking forward to connecting with my fans,” she says. “I’m very excited to go there. There’s so much surprises for them, I just can’t wait.”
For a limited time, get two of Charice’s Infinity Tour tickets for the price of one. This promotion is good only on the $75 tickets through 10 p.m. Oct. 31. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Blaisdell Box Office, online at ticket-master.com and charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000. For a limited time, two-for-one at the $150 ticket price also is available in selective sections. For more information, call 487-5487 or visit pbcproduction.com.