From the age of fourteen, Charice Pempengco has been realizing her ambitions. After competing on Little Big Star Pempengco became a YouTube sensation which resulted on appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Glee as well as a hit single and some successful albums. Her trademark long hair, cute dresses, and general adorability won over many an audience early in her career.
But while the world fell in love with Charice Pempengco, she was struggling to do the same. Though she sang beautifully and lived successfully, Pempengco had to focus so much energy into hiding who she really was that for a long time the spotlight came at an exhausting price. Pempengco is a lesbian, and self proclaimed “full-time butch” but her determination to live her dream of being a professional singer forced her to repress that part of her identity.
“It was really hard for me,” she says, “waking up every day and trying to put all this make-up and all these clothes that I didn’t want but…I just did it anyway because for me, deep inside, I’m just going to sing. I’m just going to sing and singing is what I love”
Still, despite her willingness to make the sacrifice, it was painful for her. “It made me sad because every time I saw something online, like a lesbian couple and one is like me, I could imagine myself like that; telling myself ‘That’s me. That’s what I want.’ … I would think of other people around me that would be disappointed and basically I didn’t listen to my heart. So finally, I just woke up and told myself that’s it. I really want to be myself because I owe it to myself.”
So she came out in 2013 and her fan base has only been growing. Though the response was not always positive, Pempengco projects a wise and patient opinion regarding those who remain uncomfortable with her change. “I know some people think that this is very rebellious but it’s not. It’s just me evolving. It’s me transforming into another person that is totally me,” she says.
Pempengco’s newfound edgy look and image suit her well and have helped to encourage widespread acceptance of tomboys and butch lesbians in the Phillipines, although many of those reluctant to support the change are coming from these areas. “It’s hard for them to move on because for how many years they saw me with this long hair wearing mini-skirts and all these fitted dresses and everything, but it was like triple-hard for me because that wasn’t me at all.”
Now, Pempengco proudly displays her true self on and off stage, with her butch style and beautiful girlfriend. It’s rewarding to be true to yourself.