Everything You Need to Know About Singer Jake Zyrus, Formerly Charice Pempengco
Zyrus, 25, debuted the new moniker on Twitter and Instagram Sunday
The Filipino singer and Glee guest star formerly known as Charice Pempengco now goes by the new name, Jake Zyrus.
Zyrus, 25, debuted the new moniker on Twitter and Instagram Sunday — almost three years after revealing to Oprah Winfrey that “my soul is male.”
Since rising to international stardom in late 2007, the Tagaytay native became the first Asian solo singer in history to land in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart with the release of 2010’s Charice, which debuted at No. 8.
Since the episode of Winfrey’s Where Are They Now? aired in October 2014, Zyrus has kept a low-profile — until now.
Here are six things you need to know about Jake Zyrus:
1. A star’s beginning: The reality TV show circuit
Zyrus’ mom Raquel discovered her child’s singing abilities when her eldest sang a big-ballad rendition of “Happy Birthday” at age 4. “My mom would do anything for me and my brother Carl,” Zyrus told USA Today in October 2010.
Three years later, at age 7, Zyrus started competing in local singing contests, entering nearly a hundred competitions before eventually earning a spot in 2005 on Little Big Star, a kid-oriented Filipino talent show loosely based on American Idol. “It was my idea. We didn’t have much money and I wanted to help,” Zyrus recalled.
A third place finish with a rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” may not have been the ultimate goal, but the exposure caught the eyes of a fan, who uploaded the Little Big Star performance on YouTube. “It got like a million hits. That’s why I got discovered for a Korean talent show,” Zyrus explained to the New York Daily News in May 2010.
Immense popularity on YouTube led to multiple appearances on the South Korean talent show Star King, London’s The Paul O’Grady Show, and Zyrus’ American TV debut in December 2007 on Ellen DeGeneres‘ NBC daytime talk show.
2. Rise to fame under the tutelage of Oprah and David Foster
Following the massive success of Charice in May 2008 (it went platinum in 2009), Zyrus was invited to perform on The Oprah Winfrey Show for the episode titled “World’s Smartest Kids” and belted out Houston’s “I Have Nothing.”
“One of the things I love most about Charice is that no matter what obstacles she’s faced in her life, she’s never given up on her dream of something better,” Oprah said at the time.
After taping the episode, one phone call from Oprah to Grammy-winning record producer David Foster changed the course of Zyrus’ career. Instead of flying back to the Philippines, Oprah producers pulled the young talent off the plane to bring Zyrus back to Harpo Studios, where Oprah and Foster discussed how they could help launch a new singing sensation.
Zyrus ended the year by meeting Josh Groban and Michael Bublé, and even singing with Foster in Las Vegas, with Andrea Bocelli in the Tuscan countryside and with Céline Dion at Madison Square Garden.
On Glee‘s second season (which aired in September 2010), Zyrus, 19, played Sunshine Corazon — a talented young singer and foreign exchange student who joins New Directions and quickly develops a rivalry with Rachel Berry (Lea Michele).
Transferring to compete in rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline (and then, eventually, back to New Directions), Corazon appeared in three episodes of the show. Covers included “Telephone,” “Listen,’ and “All By Myself.”
Zyrus’ character’s final episode on Glee was in the season finale, when Sunshine and Rachel made amends with their rivalry.
4. Estranged father fatally stabbed
In 2011, Zyrus’ father, Ricky Pempengco, was stabbed to death in the Philippines while shopping in San Pedro township where he bumped into Angel Capili, who allegedly stabbed Pembengco in the chest and back with an ice pick, according to police. He was 40.
In her 2008 interview with Oprah, Zyrus recalled threats and violence between family members, specifically at age 3, when an argument escalated and Ricky pointed a shotgun at mom Raquel. “My dad was about to shoot my mom, and I couldn’t do anything,” Zyrus told Oprah.
After that incident, Charice and Raquel escaped. “We left my dad, and after that, I never saw him and I don’t want to see him,” Zyrus shared.
After learning of his death, however, Zyrus canceled a scheduled performance in Singapore to fly back to the Philippines and be with her family after the tragedy.
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5. Coming out
After becoming a familiar face on The X-Factor, Asia’s Got Talent, and Good Morning America, among others, Zyrus came out as a lesbian in 2013 during an interview with Filipino talk show host Boy Abunda on The Buzz.
“I just want to say to all of you that I feel very light – that I can leave the house knowing I am not hiding anything,” Zyrus said. “I love myself, that’s why I’m able to do this.”
In 2014, Zyrus appeared on an episode of Winfrey’s Where Are They Now — confronting rumors of a gender transition head-on.
“I’m not going to go through that stage where I change everything,” Zyrus said at the time. “I’ll cut my hair and wear boy clothes and everything, but that’s all.”
Gender and sexuality issues were things Zyrus contemplated from a very young age. “I knew when I was 5,” Zyrus said. “Then, when I was 10, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s it, I’m gay.’”
RELATED VIDEO: Glee Star Charice Pempengco Changes Name to Jake Zyrus After Revealing ‘My Soul Is Male’
6. Present day: A much happier place
In a recent interview with CNN Philippines, Zyrus described a simpler life away from much of the fanfare.
“He has swapped his pigtails for a slick clean cut, and his ball gowns for button ups and jeans,” the profile described Zyrus. “He scrapped his repertoire of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. In their place, he plugged in Kurt Cobain and Freddie Mercury.”
Zyrus is now a songwriter full-time with the hopes of creating original songs and be an activist for Filipino LGBT members.
“I stand up for myself, how I stand amid a lot of criticism without breaking down,” Zyrus remarked.