Jake Zyrus, the Philippine singer and Glee star formerly known as Charice Pempengco, said he felt more confident since coming out as transgender.
Before revealing his transgender identity in June, Zyrus was the pride of the mainly Catholic nation. Zyrus was the first Asian solo singer to land a top 10 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart with then-self-titled album Charice in 2010.
Later that year, he landed a recurring role on the U.S. television series "Glee." But Zyrus, now 25, said Charice's success was never felt right to him.
"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."
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.
In June, Zyrus took to Twitter to share his new transgender name with fans, three years after appearing on the Oprah Winfrey special Where Are They Now and sharing that "my soul is male."
In a nation where same-sex marriage and divorce are outlawed, Zyrus’ announcement drew praise from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, LGBT, community.
"(It) is a very empowering image especially for individuals who are 'closeted,'" Anastacio Marasigan, executive director of rights group TLF Share, told AFP.
Zyrus insisted his message is not just for the LGBT community. “It's not just about you coming out. It's more than that,” he explained. “It's about your confidence in yourself, the strength, the pain, the struggle."
However, a popular Philippine television presenter jokingly referred to the gender transition of Zyrus as “climate change,” after his co-anchor mentioned the change in the singer’s voice.
The local edition of Esquire magazine also published a story titled "Jake Zyrus and The Challenges of Personal Reinvention," which people criticized for insulting transgender people. The publication later issued a lengthy apology.
Zyrus, who accepted the apology on Twitter, said that he didn't take the article too seriously, but was "touched" by others who stood up for him.
"This is the first time I decided it did not matter whatever negative things other people say because this time what mattered to me -- my priority -- was myself," Zyrus said.
As a different person from his former self, Zyrus said he is now focused on introducing himself to a Philippine audience, but dreams of having an international following.
"I feel silly if I compare myself to her," Zyrus said, adding he views Charice as a sister.
"People just said Charice had a golden voice because she hit high notes. It's more than that. For me, the real golden voice is when you hear a person singing, you feel it. It's from the heart."