Who’s That Girl?By Bayani San Diego Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It was a story that could’ve only been written in cyberspace.
A video, secretly shot in a mall, showing some “Random Girl” effortlessly singing the Broadway show stopper “And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going)” soon went viral, earning over 2 million hits.
When the video first made waves on Facebook, eliciting “likes” from professional singers like Louie Reyes, Lirio Vital and Moy Ortiz, the Inquirer immediately came out with a story on the mystery singer who was dubbed “Random Girl” by videographer Yuan Juan who posted the video on YouTube on July 28.
At that time, the public didn’t know the identity of the pint-sized, powerhouse diva who was clad in a simple T-shirt and shorts and carried a red knapsack on her back.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer later found out the real name of “Random Girl” by following clues posted in social networking sites.
Turned out Random Girl is Zendee Rose Tenerefe, an Information Technology graduate from General Santos City, Cotabato.
Soon enough, Zendee Rose made the rounds of local TV shows and, on October 27, after two months of waiting and rehearsing, she guested on the world-famous gab fest “Ellen,” which brought her to Hollywood.
Teary-eyed, the show’s host, comic Ellen DeGeneres, kept describing the petite Filipina singer “amazing,” and later gifted her with a portable videoke machine (actually, an iPad made to look like a mini-videoke).
For her part, Zendee gifted Ellen with a videoke mic.
The “Ellen” website hailed Zendee as the “Next Big Thing.” The online publication Examiner.com dubbed her the “Supermarket Superstar.”
On her return home, Zendee put the finishing touches on her debut album under Warner Music Philippines. She soon starred in a Nescafé TV commercial with rock band Parokya ni Edgar, and was featured on the GMA-7 drama show “Magpakailanman.”
It was quite a roller-coaster ride for this 21-year-old who had encountered mostly disappointments before “Ellen” beckoned. She had previously auditioned in various local talent shows like “The X Factor” and was rejected.
She recalled that she and her mom were in dire financial straits when they moved to Manila and had to live like squatters in a fire station.
With a click of the computer mouse, however, her life was turned upside down, or, to be more accurate, right side up.
“I must’ve posted a hundred videos on YouTube,” said Zendee, who’s a self-confessed cyber-junkie. “But I never imagined that Yuan’s video would make it this big.”
She didn’t even know Yuan and only met him after the video went viral.
“I got to thank him when I returned to the mall,” she recounted. “I also wanted to thank the salesman who allowed me to sing at the (store’s) videoke display, but I heard he had been transferred to another section.”
Shooting videos in the mall, she explained, wasn’t permitted and Yuan was only able to record her “Random Girl” performance surreptitiously.
“It must be fate,” she said.
When she applied for a US visa for the “Ellen” stint, she was lucky enough to be interviewed by a consul who had seen her video on YouTube.
When she appeared on “Ellen,” she bumped into fellow guest and Oscar winner Halle Berry who told her: “I’ve seen your video.”
“Halle hugged me for six seconds,” she recounted.
These seemingly “random” instances of good fortune have made her all the more grateful and grounded, Zendee said.
Despite several controversies thrown her way, she has maintained her good humor. Intriguing questions thrown her way were met with giggles and self-deprecating jokes.
“I got my famous red backpack in Divisoria for only P350,” she revealed. “That lucky bag in the YouTube video made it all the way to the US.”
So she can laugh at herself, but who knew that this singer is a master mimic, too?
She can sing a la Jessa Zaragoza, Vina Morales, Jaya and KZ Tandingan and mimic the speaking voice of comedienne Rufa Mae Quinto as well.
“I won the contest Little Miss Aegis of Gen San when I was a kid,” Zendee revealed, of her ability to sound like other singers.
She wouldn’t mind working on radio, as a disc jockey, she said, adding during a Radyo Inquirer interview that she had worked as a deejay in the province. “My alias was Deejay Diday.”
When she returned to the Inquirer two months ago to sing at the paper’s anniversary party, she proudly declared for all the world to hear: “I’m an Inquirer baby!” •