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Glee star breaks Philippine walls as transgender icon

This file shows singer Charice Pempengco (center) performing during the launch of her first album in Manila. — AFP

With a wisp of moustache and an increasingly confident tenor, Philippine singer Jake Zyrus proudly talks about being a different person from his former self, global teenage music sensation Charice Pempengco. Before revealing his transgender identity in June, Zyrus was the pride of the mainly Catholic nation, a diminutive girl belting out ballads on the US television series “Glee” and duetting with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. But Zyrus, now 25, said Charice’s success never felt right prompting him to make a rare, courageous move in the conservative society by announcing he was a man. “I felt like I had a wall. I could not express what I wanted to say, what I wanted to show. I could not show who I really was,” Zyrus told AFP in an interview ahead of his first concert slated for next month.

“A lot of young people will kill for all those achievements. I was happy with the achievements but I was not happy with who I was. Now I feel so light.” In a nation where same-sex marriage and divorce are outlawed, Zyrus admits his journey from the pigtailed girl in a dress to a man was a long and painful one. He has been in the public eye since rising from poverty to becoming a YouTube star whose covers of pop hits landed him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Oprah Winfrey Show, Barack Obama’s pre-US presidential inauguration galas and Oscars parties. Zyrus first came out as a lesbian in 2013, a statement he now calls a “lie”. “I thought that would be enough. For us here, you were either lesbian or gay. I was afraid that if I explained who I really was, people would not understand,” he said.



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