Asia's Rising Pop Star
Kolesnikov-Jessop, Sonia, Newsweek International
Byline: Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
As any would-be American idol knows, taking on a song by Whitney Houston or Celine Dion can be the kiss of death. The songs are so demanding that contestants often find themselves in the judges' firing line for attempting one. So when 15-time Grammy Award-winning producer David Foster says the 18-year-old Filipino singer Charice reminds him of a young Dion, the industry takes note. Foster knows what he's talking about: he produced the French Canadian Dion's debut English album, Unison. "Charice reminds me of when I saw Celine 20 years ago," he says. "In my opinion, she will put the whole of Asia on the map as a huge global superstar."
She's already making quite a splash in America. Her U.S. debut album, titled simply Charice, was the first by an Asian singer to make it to the top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart in May. Last week she appeared in the season premiere of the popular TV series Glee, where she played the role of Sunshine, an exchange student from the Philippines who became Rachel Berry's (Lea Michele) biggest rival.
Like any respectable teenager, Charmaine Clarice Pempengco, better known as Charice, got her start on YouTube. Four years ago, a fan posted a video of a preteen Charice singing Houston's "I Will Always Love You" on a local Philippines talent show. It took a while, but the video eventually won wide international attention. Today the petite singer with a surprisingly big, rich voice has already achieved one of her dreams: singing onstage with her idol Dion.
The rest of her bio is just as marketable: her mother left her father when she was a toddler because he was violent. She entered young Charice in amateur singing competitions and town fiestas so she would earn some money for the family. By the time she sang on Little Big Star, a local singing show for 6- to 13-year-olds, she had already participated in more than 100 singing contests. …