Charice Pempengco, the Filipino singer who rose to popularity via YouTube and her appearances on Glee, now goes by the name of Jake Zyrus. The 25-year-old star debuted the new moniker on social media on Sunday, June 18th, nearly three years after revealing to Oprah Winfrey that “my soul is male.”
All previous posts identifying the singer as Charice have since been deleted, making Zyrus’ tweet something of a fresh start in her career. To learn more about Zyrus, formerly known as Charice, here are five fast facts you need to know.
1. Zyrus Rose to Fame Through Her YouTube Performances in 2007
Zyrus was born on May 10th, 1992 in the Philippines. According to her biography on the Oprah website, Zyrus’ father attacked her mother out of anger, right in front of her. Zyrus says the argument escalated, and her dad grabbed a shotgun and pointed it at her mom: “My dad was about to shoot my mom, and I couldn’t do anything.” Growing up estranged from her father, it is Zyrus’ mother who served as the biggest inspiration to pursue a career in music. “I’m just singing now for my mom,” she explained, “I didn’t help her before. That’s why I want to help her now.”
Zyrus’ breakthrough would come when she entered the local talent show Little Big Star in 2005. Though she was eliminated before the final round, her enthusiasm and vocal chops caught the attention of many, and led to her amassing a large following on her YouTube channel. Within two years, Zyrus earned over 15 million hits on her channel, and was signed to a recording contract by Ten Songs/Productions.
2. Oprah Called Zyrus ‘The Most Talented Girl in the World’
Zyrus’ popularity online led to her being invited onto a number of popular talk shows. She appeared on an episode of Ellen in 2007, where she performed the songs “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and the Whitney Houston classic “I Will Always Love You.” According to Pep.com, host Ellen DeGeneres was justly wowed by the performance, telling Zyrus “You’re amazing! You’re amazing!” She added “We just witnessed the beginning of this girl’s career that we’re gonna go, ‘I was there, I saw her.’ She is unbelievable.”
Zyrus subsequently appeared on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she was introduced to the audience as the “most talented girl in the world.” She performed another Whitney Houston number, “I Have Nothing” that blew viewers away, and promptly led host Oprah Winfrey to gush over Zyrus. “One of the things I love most about Zyrus,” she told the audience, “Is that no matter what obstacles she’s faced in her life, she’s never given up on her dream of something better.”
3. Zyrus Is the First Asian Singer to Crack the Billboard 200
Zyrus released her self-titled album in 2010. Backed by the singles “Note to God” and “Crescent Moon,” the album made a splash in the United States, where it peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200, making Zyrus the first singer of Asian descent to reach the top ten on the solo charts. She was also the first Asian singer to have a Top 20 single in the U.K. with the song “Pyramid.” Charice ended up shipping over 98,000 copies.
Around this time, Charice’s profile was also given a boost when she appeared in numerous episodes of the hit television series Glee (2009-15). As Sunshine Corazon, a foreign exchange student from the Philippines, Charice was given a change to belt out classic songs like “Listen” and the Celine Dion hit “All By Myself.” She departed the series in after the second season finale in 2011.
4. Zyrus Came Out As Lesbian in 2013
Charice came out as a lesbian in 2013, according to Hollywood Life. He later addressed the obvious changes in her appearance in an interview with the Manilla television show The Buzz, saying “I know some people are more used to the old Charice, a ballad singer with the pigtails. For me, in my heart, I’ve always wanted to be more edgy, rock, more [on the] dark side. I know some people think that this is very rebellious but it’s not. It’s just me evolving. It’s me transforming into another person that is totally me.”
She added that coming out gave her a sense of liberation in her personal life: “Now I feel free. I can go out of the house without fear and certain that I’m not stepping on anybody’s toe.” Seemingly inspired by this frankness, Zyrus’ mother Racquel also came out as lesbian, telling The Manilla Bulletin that she “turned her back on homosexuality” after her mother convinced her to start a family.
5. Zyrus Will Not Go Undergo Gender Reassignment Surgery
Though Zyrus has been vocal in her transition spiritually, she told Oprah Winfrey that a transition of the body is not in store.”Not exactly transitioning to a male, but basically my soul is like male. But I’m not going to go through that stage where I’m going to change everything—not change my body. I would change, like, this look: Cut my hair and wear boy clothes and everything, but that’s all.”
Zyrus released a statement on Twitter that read: “My first tweet as Jake. Overwhelmed. Saw all your love comments and I’m so happy. Finally. I love you, everyone and see you soon.” Additionally, she posted on her Instagram account, where she captioned the photo by writing “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the love and respect. I love you back and I’m sending peace to everyone.”
The majority of Zyrus’ fans have responded to the news with open arms, citing her bravery as inspirational. Check out some of the best tweets below.