Do you know who Gian Barbarona is? Probably not, but that’s forgivable. Gian was just some boy who lost to Sam Concepcion in the 2005 ABS-CBN talent show, Little Big Star. Gian was 2nd place, beating that little girl who settled for 3rd. That little girl was Charice Pempengco, now simply know as Charice.
Now this girl Charice – you probably know her by now. You’ve heard her story. You knew about her appearance in a Korean show, wowing, among others, Korean supergroup Super Junior. You’ve heard about her YouTube videos that led her to different platforms from Ellen’s Warner Brothers studios set to Celine Dion’s Madison Square Garden stage. Recently, she became the first Filipino (some even say, first Asian) to debut at the top 10 of the Billboard 200.
She got lucky and she knows it. In one interview, she acknowledges that there are a hundred other girls in the Philippines who can sing exactly like her. She looks short and she’s not stick thin, breaking the mold of the American tween pop sweetheart. She’s has superpowers others do not have, superpowers known as Oprah and David Foster. She has the machinery of a mainstream record label and publicists with the media savvy to make outlets like Perezhilton, Just Jared and Disney Radio like her.
But most importantly, she has the backing of the worldwide Filipino community. She recently stunned Toronto when she filled a mall with black heads during her album promo tour. Suddenly, she has a fan base far greater and stronger, even than that of Sam Concepcion’s and Gian Barbarona’s voters combined.
Filipinos rallied behind her because, like it or not, she is the Pinoy’s latest chance at finally cracking the international mainstream music scene, and we can feel that she actually has a shot. We have tried before with the likes of Banig, Lea Salonga, Jocelyn Enriquez and Jasmine Trias, only to achieve modest chart successes. (Don’t say Black Eyed Peas and Pussycat Dolls cause that’s different).
But amidst this Filipino admiration comes the bitter poison that comes with every stroke of luck one gets. Charice, dubbed by Oprah as one of the world’s most talented kids, is also the one of the internet world’s most hated. And most of these hatred come from Pinoys too.
Check out her videos on YouTube and even posts about her on blogs. For every positive post she gets, mostly from people who haven’t even heard of her before, there pops a Pinoy somewhere saying things like “Well, we really hate her here in the Philippines,” or “There are more singers here in the Philippines who are better and more attractive than her.” There are some more Pinoys who are filled with inexplicable rage just because they can’t stand the singer’s singing voice or the way she speaks English.
Fact is, while some people think it makes them feel better to say Charice does not deserve her magnificent stroke of luck, she doesn’t deserve that kind of hate either. If she got noticed by the international audience, that is because she has talent to begin with. Go give her a chance. Buy her album and listen to it. Do you know, that even though she’s been trained all her life to sing big old-woman wailer songs, her voice and perfromance transcends well to contemporary pop music? Do you know she can rap? Do you know that given the right material, she can actually sound fresh, young and original? Do you know that given the limits of the materials (having been positioned to capture the tween pop Miley Cyrus/Taylor Swift market), she can actaully make her vocals stand out nonetheless?
Full disclosure: I, the writer, do not like Charice very much as well because the first records she made wasn’t really my kind of music and she is in that awkward phase where she doesn’t know whether to act like a kid or a grown-up so her actions come off as annoying (especially when she’s hosting ASAP, oh God). But I do not go flooding internet threads about her of my hatred and disdain. I may not be her biggest fan, but I want her to succeed. She works hard, she has talent, she’s got her chance, let’s all give her a break.
Charice, the talent show loser, may not be the best artist we can offer the world, but right now, she is our best chance. And there are only two things you can do for her: support her, or leave her alone.
(Note: By “support her”, I do not mean reminding the world every minute that Charice is a Filipino and typing “Mabuhay ang Pinoy!” or “Proud to be Pinoy” every minute you get. I tell you, that’s annoying and that doesn’t help her at all. Trust me.)