From Little Big Star to Out and Proud Superstar

Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco AKA Charice is starting a new chapter and part of that is to perform in Pittsburgh at the Equality on Ellsworth event, the official kickoff to Pittsburgh Pride, on Sunday, June 8.

Charice is thrilled to come to Pittsburgh for the event. “This is my first time. I’m excited!”

The young singer’s career began on “Little Big Star,” the “American Idol” of the Philippines. She was eliminated in the first round, but she was brought back as the wildcard. The singer went on to place third in the competition.

She was recognized in America on a series of YouTube videos, but in 2008 she got a chance to perform on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and Oprah dubbed her, “The most talented girl in the world!”

A stint on the television show “Glee” brought her even more attention in the U.S. Charice played Sunshine Corazon, a young Filipina transfer student in direct competition with the show’s star, Rachel (played by Lea Michelle).

Charice said, “Working in the set of ‘Glee’ was a wonderful experience. I made friends with many members of the cast who made me feel at home. I was alone in the States when I was doing the show. ‘Glee’ was a witness to my independence.”

She has high praise for her cast mates. She particularly enjoyed working with the late Cory Monteith. She added, “Amber Riley was great. Lea Michelle was warm. The rest of the cast welcomed me to the fold just like that.” She snapped her fingers and added, “It was fun!”

On June 2, 2013, Charice came out as a lesbian. She said, “Ever since I came out, my life has never been so good, so free…so pleasant…so blessed. I dared to come out amidst my fear that I would lose everything.”

After wringing her hands over the decision she finally came to an important realization. Charice said, “I realized that there was no point hiding or sweeping everything under the rug. I came out with the only desire that I should be able to accept the real me.”

Charice said, “Many people told me I should consider my career if I decided to come out. It took me some years before I finally told the world who I really was. But in June last year, on national television, I admitted I was a lesbian. I felt free. I felt the boulder on my shoulders crushed. The feeling of humiliation was replaced by the feeling of celebration. Many of my followers stood by me. There were a few why left me but I wooed them back with my honesty. Some remained distant, but many came back. I remain happy with my decision. Honesty is my source of happiness now.”

She added, “It’s not very easy to be a lesbian in the Philippines. Many will always have an opinion of you. It’s good that many lesbians I know are brave and strong and can just shrug whatever the society tells them.”

She chose to be brave. “It’s a fine line. I have to be brave without being abrasive.”

The Filipina singer has enjoyed playing pride events. She said, “I have attended LGBT events sponsored by the US Embassy in Manila. It always feels good to be in touch with the members of LGBT community. Your defenses are down, you feel you really belong. I live in a country where homosexuality is accepted by the majority of the population. But, of course, there is still some you cannot please; bashers and bigots abound. But I live my life according to my utmost honesty.”

Charice has been traveling all over the world, adding new chapters to her life (her last album was titled “Chapter Ten”).

She said, “I like discovering different cultures. I love to see the ways of other people in a different country. Traveling is very enriching.”

She promises a great show for Equality on Ellsworth. Charice said, “The fact that I became a professional singer is a big blessing I will forever be grateful for. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my job. I owe it to the public to do my best in all of my performances.”

Equality on Ellsworth is Sunday, June 8 outside on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside, from 4-10 PM.

Michael Buzzelli is a stand-up comedian and sit-down author. As a comedian, he has performed all around the country, most notably, the Ice House, the Comedy Store and the Improv in Los Angeles. As a writer, Michael Buzzelli has been published in a variety of websites, magazines and newspapers. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant,’ Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine. He is also a Moth Grand Slam storyteller and actor. His books, "Below Average Genius," a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column in the Observer-Reporter, and his romantic comedy,  “All I Want for Christmas," are on sale at Amazon.com. He is working on a LGBTQ romantic comedy called, “Why I Hate My Friends.” You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. (He / Him / His)