Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Revisiting my interview with Charice...

In the fall of 2008, i was invited to cover a show headlined by several ABS-CBN talents at Ontario Convention Center. Filipino superstars like Martin Nievera, Edu Manzano and heaththrob John Lloyd Cruz were the main attractions but it was a (relative) newcomer, petite and only a few months older than 16, who grabbed the crowd's attention that day. Her name was Charice. At the time, she was barely known outside of the Fil-Am market but she was already on her way to the top.

Next month, on May 11, Charice is set to conquer mainstream America when her long-awaited debut album hits record stores. Her carrier single, "Pyramid", is currently dominating radio charts and is expected to go to the top soon! Way to go Charice!

Here is an interview i had with her in September 2008, mere days after her triumphant debut on Celine Dion's sold-out Madison Square Gardens concert.

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Charice: I feel like I'm dreaming
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated September 23, 2008 12:00 AM

How do you know when a star is born?

When you appear on Oprah, the biggest and highest rated US syndicated talk show, twice within six months — that should make you one. But when you become the unplanned special guest on Celine Dion’s spectacular Madison Square Garden show and perform in front of more than 40,000 people are not made up of your regular audience — and make them stand up on their feet in adoring ovation, you are a star!

Charice, the 16-year-old YouTube sensation less than a year ago is now the Philippines’ biggest singing sensation.

“Thank God she came out in all the right shows,” Martin Nievera says when asked how he feels about Charice’s success in the US. “Filipinos are so proud of her because she came out on Oprah. It’s a great day for a Filipino every time she does something with David Foster, Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. It really means a lot to every Filipino — rich, poor, balikbayan, in the province — they all see themselves in Charice.”

“She’s like my daughter, and, I think I speak for all the singers who are one year older than her — anyone, all of us — are so proud of what she’s done. We all dreamt of having that same break. It’s a good thing she’s brimming with talent and she’s so humble about it.”

The concert king was part of the One Kapamilya Go event organized by the The Filipino Channel this weekend at the Ontario Convention Center in Southern California. The event drew a larger than expected crowd that a new ballroom had to be opened (while several fire marshals had to be called on to bring order) to accommodate the overflowing crowd of mostly Filipinos who came to watch.

So, when do you really know when a star is born?

When you become the biggest attraction to an event that is supposed to showcase stars more senior and definitely bigger than you are, you are a star!

Though not her fault, Charice owned the stage this weekend. Sheryn Regis, Carol Banawa and Martin Nievera were all gracious and very supportive of this young Filipino singer’s unprecedented success in the US.

Charice’s presence at the weekend event marked her first appearance since her unscheduled duet with Celine the previous Sunday.

This writer had an exclusive interview with the star after her set and it was quite an experience. I had to scramble for position as Charice was whisked away by an entourage worthy of a Hollywood star while her muscular security men were trying to dodge her from fans who were literally screaming their lungs out for autograph and those precious handshakes. Thanks to Tita Millie Gurfinkel, I managed to take the singer to a quiet corner and got her talking for about 10 minutes.

Charice was with her unassuming mom who was unquestionably very proud of what her daughter has accomplished so far. Racquel, who is also a singer, found herself on the spotlight during Celine’s concert when the singer asked her to join Celine and her daughter on stage.

Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about your Celine Dion experience.

It was super. It was great. I still couldn’t make myself believe it. She is my idol and it’s a dream come true for me to perform with her.

How does it feel performing with Celine in front of thousands of people in Madison Square Garden?

Seriously, I was really shaking. I know I can perform in front of a lot of people, but I was so nervous because I couldn’t believe I was her special guest and I would be performing a duet with her. It was unbelievable. She asked me if I was nervous and I said, “Yes.” She talked to me and it made me feel better. And also we were singing for my mom and it made me extra nervous.

You were singing for your mom, how was it like?

When we were on Oprah, Celine appeared on the show and she invited me to come to New York and sing with her for my mom. My mom cried at that time. It was really for my mom. It was Celine who suggested that I sing Because You Loved Me for my mom.

Did you ever see yourself performing before large number of crowds all over the world?

Actually, as much as possible, I don’t want to expect for things. I like to be surprised. I would like to believe that I can dream as much as possible but I still allow myself to be surprised at whatever blessings God would bestow on me.

Do you think you can measure all the blessings you have received from God?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I feel like I am still dreaming. Not that I don’t want to. I only want to consider and appreciate each blessing as it comes. Like this duet with Celine, I don’t want to count and compare it to other blessings I had. All I want to do is just say thank you to God.

Have you adjusted to the commotion your mere presence generates ?

A little bit, yes.

How do you deal with it?

I don’t know. All I know is that I try to enjoy it.

Can you recall that exact moment when you felt the world has finally started to notice you and your talent?

I don’t really think about it. Like what Ms. Celine Dion suggested, all I should focus on is to perform and consider the audience as part of my family. I don’t want to think that they are starting to recognize me. All I want to think of is that I am just performing for them.

Do you expect a large crowd every time you perform now?

(Laughs) No. I don’t mind how big or small the crowd is. I have performed before small crowds so I don’t mind.

Do you plan on staying here in the US?

If there is an opportunity, I’d say why not. But I don’t ever want to forget where I came from.

How does being a Kapamilya mean to you?

I’m proud of being a Kapamilya. It’s what I represent in every performance that I make anywhere.

Will you start recording an album here in the US?

(Smiles) I have no idea. But I am hoping.

What can we expect in the next six months?

I have no idea. I have no expectations.

Any plans?

Secret.

Why not?

I can’t tell. I can’t, sorry. (And she smiles heartily)

There are talks of a groundbreaking development that will put Charice further into mainstream Hollywood very soon. Until then, all the Philippines can do is speculate and revel in the achievements of Charice and the pride she brings to every Filipino everywhere.

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