Jake Zyrus: “They are upset that I am throwing away the gift that has taken me to Hollywood.”

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In Jake Zyrus' new memoir, “I am Jake,” he reveals details of his transition, his past struggles, and his future as a musician. Photo courtesy of ANVIL PUBLISHING

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — “‘What about that powerful Charice Pempengco voice?’ I’m aware that people think about this even if they don’t say it to my face,” Jake Zyrus writes in his memoir, “I am Jake,” where he recounts every detail of his transition, from the excruciating recovery from top surgery to the changes his hormone replacement therapy will make to the very thing that shot the artist formerly known as Charice Pempengco to superstardom.

“They are upset that I am throwing away the gift that has taken me to Hollywood,” Zyrus writes. “How do I explain to them that the more my voice cracked, the less it sounded female, the happier I felt? It was a sure sign that I was turning into the person — the man — I wanted to be.”

The tell-all, published under Anvil Publishing’s Pride Press, is divided into eight chapters and delves into the closely followed aspects of the artist’s life, like his abusive relationship with his mother, his father’s tragic death, his grueling days as a kontesera-slash-breadwinner for their family, and his sudden catapult into stardom.

But this is far from your ordinary celebrity memoir, as Zyrus holds nothing back on his journey towards self-affirmation. Readers become privy to the rarely documented transmasculine experience, from which Zyrus hopes they can gain a deeper understanding of the pain of performing an identity that conflicts with how one truly sees themselves, and the immense hurdles transgender people must overcome.

“I wanted them to think about what I've gone through para lang maging who I am today,” Zyrus tells me in an interview. “It's to make people realize na, look at that, he had to do all these things just for him to be himself.”

I Am Jake 150dpi 090518 (1).jpg In the tell-all, readers are privy to the rarely documented transmasculine experience, from which Zyrus hopes they can gain a deeper understanding of the pain of performing an identity that conflicts with how one truly sees themselves, and the immense hurdles transgender people must overcome. Photo courtesy of ANVIL PUBLISHING

It’s worth noting that this is perhaps the only celebrity memoir written by a transmasculine Filipino. But it isn’t just that it’s groundbreaking that makes the book unputdownable — it’s Zyrus’ wit and unfaltering spirit, which shine through his vivid retellings and honest confessions. If you’ve seen any video of the artist performing onstage like it was nobody’s business, you’d be quick to recognize it.

As Charice, Zyrus always seemed most comfortable belting out a power ballad, even as they stood onstage alongside their idols. Scroll down to the comments section of videos of Charice’s performances and you’ll find hundreds of fans lamenting the “loss” of such a great balladeer. Yet Zyrus says that transitioning hasn’t changed his relationship to music one bit. In fact, it has made him love being a balladeer even more.

“It's always been a dream of mine to sing Josh Groban songs, Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra, the classics,” he says. “‘Pag magpeperform ako sa stage, power ballads talaga ‘yung gusto kong laging pineperform. And ever since nag-transition ako, mas minahal ko.”

And Zyrus’ musical interests aren’t just restricted to power ballads. His “Catharsis” album revealed his love for alternative rock — the guitar riffs on “Killing Myself To Sleep” are unmistakably Nirvana-inspired — and he confirms this affinity for the genre and attachment to Kurt Cobain in his book, where he says that he sees himself in Cobain, whose struggle with clinical depression and the pitfalls of fame mirrored his own.

Meanwhile, his latest single, “Diamond” has been described by Billboard as bearing a “striking resemblance” to “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes, who is coincidentally one of Zyrus’ pop music idols. “I look up to him sa music niya, the way he writes his songs,” he says.

“If there’s no pressure there’ll be no diamond/So I don’t mind it coming my way,” Zyrus sings on the single, and it inspires in the way that queer anthems do. When asked if “Diamond” was meant to be an LGBT anthem and if Zyrus will continue to make music geared towards the community, he says, “The more we talk about the reality, mas matatanggap ng tao. I would love to release more songs like that.”

“And it's to let everybody know that they're not alone and na normal lang masaktan, normal na hindi ka maging okay,” he explains. “I know na makakarelate ‘yung mga fellow LGBT community [members], and not just the LGBT but everybody,” he adds. “Especially mga kabataan ngayon. The most talked about topic [is] depression, suicide, bullying.”

As he continues to release music as Jake Zyrus, he hopes that eventually the conversation moves away from his decision to transition. “For example, I release music, it's always secondary. Like, it's okay to talk about it but I guess what I’d love to hear is more on my craft,” he says. “Because ‘yun naman talaga ‘yung purpose ko in my life. Who I am is just something that I love sharing to everyone because I'm happy about who I am, but it's not my job.”

At the press launch for the book, Zyrus is markedly relaxed and confident as he fields questions from guests. From heavy questions about mental illness to fun ones like which actor he’d like to portray him in a movie about his life (he says Daniel Padilla or James Reid with a cheeky wink) he looks genuinely comfortable in his own skin.

With all cards laid on the table, an unflappable desire to continue making music, a newfound sense of freedom, and a clear understanding of his place as an artist, it seems that Jake Zyrus will only keep moving forward as the artist he always envisioned himself to be.

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“I am Jake” is available now for ₱295 through www.anvilpublishing.com and at National Book Store and Powerbooks starting Oct. 5, 2018.