Regine Velasquez (born Regina Encarnacion Ansong Velasquez on April 22, 1970) is a Filipino singer, actress, record producer, TV host, stage director, fashion designer, and commercial and print model. She is dubbed as the Asia's Songbird after winning the 1989 Asia Pacific Singing Contest in Hong Kong and is widely known for possessing a wide vocal range.
Velasquez was the first Filipino to stage a solo concert at the Main Hall of Carnegie Hall, part of Carnegie Hall's centennial-year concert series. In 2000, she performed the country's millennial theme, televised in 55 broadcast networks throughout the world to coincide with midnight in Manila.
"In Love With You," a duet with Jacky Cheung, reached MTV Asia and Channel V music charts. She has collaborated with artists such as Paul Anka, David Hasselhoff, 98 Degrees, Brian McKnight, Mandy Moore, Ronan Keating, Stephen Bishop, Jim Brickman, Peabo Bryson, Jeffrey Osborne, Dave Koz, Lea Salonga, Grasshopper, Coco Lee, Michel Legrand, David Pomeranz, Eduardo Capetillo, Fernando Carrillo, and Billy Crawford.
She embarked on several television and film projects, receiving a Best Actress Award for her portrayal of a mentally challenged woman in Maalaala Mo Kaya. Velasquez also formed IndiMusic (iMusic), a record label partnered with the late Bella Tan's Universal Records. She is currently managed by Aria Productions.
1970?1985: Early life and discovery
Velasquez is the first child of Teresita and Gerardo Velasquez, born in Tondo, Metro Manila, Philippines on April 22, 1970. Her family moved to Hinundayan, Southern Leyte, where Velasquez studied at the Hinundayan Central School.
Music figured largely in her early development; her father sang to the children Frank Sinatra songs and her mother accompanied family sing-alongs on guitar. Her father trained her voice by having her sing while submerged neck-deep in the ocean; her mother taught her how to move on stage and interpret songs. Before she could read, her father taught her song lyrics. At six, Velasquez participated in a nationally-televised amateur singing competition, The Tita Betty's Children's Show. Her piece, "Buhat Nang Kita'y Makilala" ("Since I Met You"), won third place and "youngest contender." Velasquez joined more singing competitions in small towns around the country. By nine, Velasquez and her family had moved to Balagtas, Bulacan, where she studied at Balagtas Central School. She later studied at St. Lawrence Academy, where she won Vocal Solo and Vocal Duet for her school at the annual BULPRISA (Bulacan Private School Association) competition. Her parents saved money on competitions by designing and sewing her gowns using materials at hand and fabric from old gowns. Regine also suffers from dyslexia which makes it difficult for her to read lyrics and learn new songs. But even with this learning handicap, her raw talent and sheer determination helped her win the top prize in 67 of approximately 300 competitions.
At fourteen, Velasquez entered the senior division of Ang Bagong Kampeon, a nationally-televised singing competition, hosted by Bert "Tawa" Marcelo and Asia's "Queen of Songs", Pilita Corrales. Her father suggested that she audition with "Saan Ako Nagkamali" ("Where Did I Go Wrong"). She won for eight straight weeks and became the first grand champion of the show. The show's musical director, Dominic Salustiano, suggested her winning piece, George Benson's "In Your Eyes." She won a contract with Octoarts, recording the single "Love Me Again" as "Chona Velasquez," her nickname. She then joined the Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), an organization of Filipino singers, performing in music lounges all over Metro Manila. Members of OPM helped her out by giving her industry advice and by lending their gowns for her performances.
At the behest of friend and fellow Octoarts recording artist, Pops Fernandez, Velasquez guested on the now defunct GMA 7 Variety TV show, 'Penthouse Live', on February 16, 1986. This is considered the biggest turning point of her career as this is where Ronnie Henares, the show's producer, noticed her potential and offered to become her manager. Martin Nievera, Pops' husband and co-host of the show, suggested to Velasquez that she drop the name Chona and use Regine as her screen name. That year, her father resigned from his job as a construction estimator to fully attend to his daughter's blossoming career.
Viva Records signed Velasquez to a contract in 1987, releasing her self-titled debut album. The album contained the hits "Kung Maibabalik Ko Lang," "Isang Lahi," and "Urong Sulong."
Her first regularly televised performances were musical variety shows with ensemble casts, such as ABS-CBN's Triple Treat and the Sunday variety show Teen Pan Alley. Velasquez and Alley's Janno Gibbs continued to collaborate throughout the years, creating the musical Kenkoy at Rosing, recording the hit cover song "Magkasuyo Buong Gabi," and performing duets in concert.
1988?1991: International exposure
In 1988, Regine cut her hair short out of protestations that she was not given a chance to stage her first concert entitled, "True Colors" because "The Jets" were performing on that same day which was on her 18th birthday. It was on that same year good things started to happen.
In 1989, Regine was chosen to represent the Philippines in the Asia-Pacific Singing Contest held in Hong Kong. At first Regine declined, but with much convincing from her friends she agreed to represent the country. And on Dec. 23, 1989, Regine won the grand prize with her song, "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel and "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls. Her win garnered her celebrity status. Because of her victory, it became the starting point of her career as the "Asia's Songbird."
Carnegie Hall, New York at the age of 21
One of the veteran singer-composers in the Philippines, Jose Mari Chan, hand-picked Velasquez to be his duet partner for his album entitled Constant Change. The album was awarded a Certified Diamond Record Award by the PRIMA (equivalent to ten platinum awards). Gary Valenciano, one of the country's singer-songwriters, penned the song 'Each Passing Night' for his album 'Faces of Love'.
In 1990, Cameron Macintosh Group, makers of "Les Miserables" and "Ms. Saigon" gave Regine a round trip plane tickets for a special audition in New York. Cameron Macintosh was so impressed that she offered roles for Regine and Jamie Rivera, but Regine declined the offer and stayed in the Philippines, because she felt that she didn't have enough stage experience and she was uncomfortable doing delicate scenes.
Velasquez signed with Vicor records and released several albums, starting with Nineteen 90. The album included the "Narito Ako" ("Here I Am"), her first Ogie Alcasid-penned song, "I Have To Say Goodbye," and "Promdi". Her first major solo concert, Narito Ako, was standing-room only at the Folk Arts Theater, with Gary Valenciano as a guest performer. She received numerous standing ovations in this concert. This is the first time where she have shown her vocal prowess and never failed the audience to witness the wow factor in every high notes that she sings.
Velasquez's debut United States solo concert, Narito Ako sa New York (Here I Am in New York), was held at the Main Hall of Carnegie Hall on , 1991, part of one hundred events of its centennial celebration. Velasquez is the first Filipino to stage a solo concert in the revered venue (The first Filipino group act to perform is the Apo Hiking Society).
She also done an album Tagala Talaga ("A Genuine Tagalog Lady"). It comprises of her renditions of classic Filipino compositions by Nonong Pedero, Willy Cruz, George Canseco, Louie Ocampo, Freddie Aguilar, and National Artists for Music Awardees Ryan Cayabyab, Lucio D. San Pedro, and Levi Celerio.
1992?1999: Asian Music scene
In 1992, she continued to guest in several variety shows in the Philippines. Her fourth album, Reason Enough, was released in 1993 and achieved platinum album status. It featured "Sana Maulit Muli," "Babalikang Muli," and her duet with Gary Valenciano, "Slip Away."
By 25, Regine became an International (Asian) Recording Artist. The internationally renowned Polygram Records produced her first Asian album, "Listen Without Prejudice." Regine's endearing duet with American balladeer Paul Anka, "It's Hard To Say Goodbye" made it high in the charts in many countries. A stylish music video with Asian hearthrob Jacky Cheung which landed the top slot in MTV Asia's Asian Top 20 Videos, launched their beautiful duet entitled "In Love With You " to hit stature in Asia.
Regine's second album entitled "My Love Emotion ", featuring the "You've Made Me Stronger," composed by Trina Belamide, sold 100,000 copies Asia-wide on the first month of its release?that, without the benefit of a full promotional blitz yet. Record-breaking concerts in the United States, and the unprecedented sales of her records in key Asian markets have garnered for Regine the informal title of "Asia's Queen of Pop." But busy as she is with her numerous engagements both in and out of the Philippines, Regine has managed to do something very close to her heart-----perform for charity. Singapore's National Kidney Foundation, the HongKong AIDS Foundation, the Hongkong Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Philippines' Bridges School for Special Children are just a few of the many causes Regine has chosen to be involved in.
Her next album, Retro, contained covers of hits from the 1970s, a duet with Remus Choy of Grashopper (I Can't Help It), and an acoustic version of "Dance With Me," a duet with her mother, Teresita Velasquez.
Velasquez joined Ryan Cayabyab's musical adaptation of Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere at the CCP in 1995. She played the tragic role of Maria Clara opposite Audie Gemora's Crisostomo Ibarra, directed by Nonong Padilla. Vic Del Rosario of Viva saw her performance and offered her the lead in Wanted: Perfect Mother, a movie adaptation of the Mars Ravelo comic book series, loosely based on The Sound of Music. Martin Nievera wrote the theme song, "You Are My Song," one of Velasquez's original hit singles. The movie was her first starring role and first pairing with Christopher De Leon, the Philippines' King of Drama.
In 1996, she staged Isang Pasasalamat, a free tenth anniversary concert at the UP Sunken Garden. Janno Gibbs, Bernardo Bernardo, The Tux, Nanette Inventor, Ivy Violan, and Martin Nievera were among her special guests. In the same year, Velasquez recorded a Christmas album, Love Was Born on Christmas Day, her final album under Polycosmic Records. She also ended her contract with Primeline, Inc., opting to manage her own career together with her sister, Cacai Velasquez.
Viva Records released her multi-platinum R&B and hip hop-album Drawn, produced by Mark J. Feist, featuring a portrait made by Velasquez herself on the cover demonstrating her background in fine arts. Songs like "How Could You Leave," "I'll Never Say Goodbye," and more upbeat songs like "Once in a Lifetime" and "Messin' With My Head" demonstrated her versatility. The Filipino track "Ikaw" ("You"), was the theme song of her movie with Aga Muhlach. During this period, Velasquez moved from her demure image to a more sexy appearance.
Eventually, her star shone brighter year after year. Regine became an international star and released three multi-platinum albums in Asia. She toured around the Philippines, and in various countries, captivating jam-packed crowds with her performances. She was really a crowd favorite, in large part to her charm and endearing personality. "I work hard at what I do. I try to do better all the time," she says. Indeed, she is really the "Asia's Songbird."
2000?2005: New Image and Independence
Regine Velasquez in GMA Network's Global Millennium Day Broadcast (2000)
Moving into more mature and sexy image, Velasquez sang the Philippine Millennium anthem "Written In The Sand" atop the Manila Peninsula hotel, an event broadcast live around the world. She released an album entitled R2K ("Regine 2000"), containing "revival cuts" (covers) of international artists and achieving Sixtuple platinum status in sales and even reached to Ten Times platinum her best selling album so far. She launched the R2K Concert series, her most notable concert series filling the Araneta Coliseum for two days. It features exquisite costumes, a repertoire that is more pop in nature, special effects and advance pyrotechnics. The concert has been hailed by a Malaysian magazine as the greatest concert act by an Asian artist in the last 25 years.
Regine Velasquez's most notable R2K Concert act, singing "On the Wings of Love" hanging in mid-air.
Two years later, she released an all-original album titled Reigne, an anagram from her name and an allusion to her status in the industry. The album included songs like "To Reach You," "Dadalhin," and "Sa Aking Pag-iisa" which even had a remix version.
Music, it turns out, was only the first arena for her success. As a spokesperson, she helped increase the presence of American fast-food chains like KFC and Wendy's in Asia. As an actress, she appeared in a number of Filipino films that, it's safe to say, succeeded exclusively because of Regine's star power.
She continued to juggle her singing, film, television, and advertising careers. In 2002, she received Best Actress in Star Awards for Television in her portrayal of a retarded woman seeking acceptance and love. That same year, Regine was true to form, releasing her most successful movie ("Ikaw Lamang, Hanggang Ngayon") to date. Add to that an MTV Asia award for "Best Philippine Artist," coupled with a "Box Office Queen" award, which only cemented her status as the best performer the country has ever seen.
She also staged the Bantay Bata Benefit concert, One Night with Regine, set at the stairs of the Philippine National Museum which won Best Musical Special at the 2003 Asian Television Awards. Her MTV Asia special entitled Speak Your Mind was nominated for the UNICEF Child Rights Awards. The production was highly commended for its agendum on child welfare, documenting the plight of homeless children swarming the streets of Metro Manila, in an effort to protect and safeguard their rights.
She also hosted the amateur singing contest Star For A Night which aimed to discover new talents. It launched the careers of Sarah Geronimo and Mark Bautista among others. The weekly show was aired on IBC-13 and was a co-production with Viva.
Velasquez became the first and second recipient of the MTV Favorite Artist Award (Philippines) in 2002 and 2003. During the 2002 award ceremony held in Singapore, she sang "Cry" in a duet with Mandy Moore, one of the hosts.
In 2003, Velasquez reunited with concert king Martin Nievera in the Martin Nievera and Regine Velasquez World Concert Tour. The concert was an artistic and commercial success. The first quarter of 2004 saw Regine and co-artist, singer-songwriter Ogie Alcasid in much-anticipated back-to-back concerts entitled The Songbird and the Songwriter. Velasquez formed her own record label called Songbird Music in that same year. She produced an album for Gabby Eigenmann who was her co-host in SOP.
In 2004, Velasquez released Covers, comprising cover songs including Original Pilipino Music ("OPM") classics of male singers like Basil Valdez, Martin Nievera, Gary Valenciano, Ogie Alcasid, Side A, True Faith, and Ariel Rivera. Velasquez transferred her amateur singing contest to GMA-7 and changed the name to Search For A Star. The show launched the career of Rachelle Ann Go.
Velasquez starred in GMA's telenovela Forever In My Heart opposite Richard Gomez, Dawn Zulueta, and former flame Ariel Rivera. She produced, directed, and staged a set of concert performances entitled Reigning Still in December 2004. The concert set a new dimension for Velasquez following the trends of artist such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. Velasquez is more daring here rather than in her previous concerts, wearing sexy and revealing outfits. In 2005, Velasquez and singer Pops Fernandez performed a concert, Queens On Fire, later taking it on an eight-city U.S. tour.
Velasquez held the Reflections Concert series at Aliw Theatre late that year. The stage was decorated with mannequins wearing her gowns from the past decade which were later auctioned for the benefit of GMA's Kapuso Foundation. The concert featured the prodigies "Wyeth Gifted Kids" (saxophonist Jacob Sarreal, violinists Joseph Valdes and Paulina, and classical cellist Pocholo Gutierrez). The concert featured songs by her favorite singers or the foreign female singers who have influenced her career. The concert consisted of numerous medleys of hits by Barbra Streisand, Anita Baker, Sheena Easton, Spice Girls, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion.
She recorded the theme song "Di Na Nag-iisa" for the Darna TV series, based on the Darna comic book character created by Mars Ravelo, and its characteristic yell. The theme song was composed by South Border's Jay Durias and the song was nominated for an Aliw Award for Best song made for Television. The song was also used in the movie Till I Met You and is included in the original sound track.
2006?2008: More than a Songbird
The year 2006 marked Velasquez 20th Anniversary in showbiz. She released the album Covers: Volume 2, featuring covers of international hit songs including Elvis Presley's "Blue Suede Shoes" and the Beatles "Come Together". All of the songs were presented with new arrangements in various musical genres. The first single was "Hold Me In Your Arms," covering the Southern Sons song.
Her Valentine concert at the Araneta Coliseum, Forever After, co-starred Ogie Alcasid, Rico Puno, and Ai Ai Delas Alas. She and Pops Fernandez staged the North American leg of the Queens on Fire concert tour in the spring of 2006. The fantaconcierto hit Forever After tour was staged in key US cities and at the Wembley Arena in London.
On August 13, 2006, the Sharon Cuneta Show devoted an entire episode from Velasquez's humble beginnings to her current stature now as an ICON. In the middle of 2006, together with manager Cacai Velasquez, boyfriend Ogie Alcasid, and brother-in-law Raul Mitra, Velasquez launched the IndiMusic record label, her own record company. As part of her 20th anniversary celebration, she staged Twenty concert, at the Araneta Coliseum in mid-October 2006. The concert boasted a full symphony orchestra and the country's best conductors namely Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, Gerard Salonga, Louie Ocampo, Raul Mitra and Mon Faustino as her guest conductors. Velasquez also recorded "Maghihintay Ako," the theme song for the sci-fi telenovela Atlantika.
In 2007, People Asia Magazine's "People of the Year" honored her with the Exemplary Achievement Award, shared with three others. In March 14, Velasquez together with Ms. Kuh Ledesma represented the Philippines in the Mosaic International Music Festival in Singapore held at the Esplenade. The festival was held They were given the honor of being included in the "Headliners" list which included Rachael Yamagata, Yo La Tengo, among others. The festival brings together over 400 music icons from different parts of the globe so that people can share and experience the full diversity of world music.
Her movie, Paano Kita Iibigin, co-starring Piolo Pascual opened on May 30, 2007. The movie was the first co-production between Viva Films and Star Cinema which is owned by media conglomerate ABS-CBN. The promo for the movie was rife with controversy because of Ogie Alcasid's coming clean and publicly admitting his relationship with Velasquez which they have discreetly been keeping for a couple of years. Alcasid is married but has been separated from his wife for 4 years. A soundtrack, featuring solos and duets by the co-stars, was released by Star Records, the first time Velasquez produced an album outside Viva Entertainment. The theme song was penned by Ogie Alcasid.
In August 2007, Velasquez and Alcasid started hosting 'Celebrity Duets' (Philippines) on GMA 7. The show pairs up local personalities with local professional singers. Velasquez also endorsed Vicki Belo's "Belo Essentials," which includes singer Zsa Zsa Padilla and model/TV personality Lucy Torres. This year she recorded the theme song of GMA's remake of "Marimar" with the same title which became an instant hit on the airwaves. In October 2007, she appeared on the cover of the fashion magazine "Preview" that featured her most anticipated photos since the release of her coffee table book, Reigne...the book.
Just three days after her 6-nights concert series at The Aliw Theater (Ang Ating Musika), Velasquez attended the 2007 Aliw Awards held at Palacio de Maynila and won two of the most coveted awards of the night: Best Major Concert Act (Female) for her 20th year anniversary concert at the Araneta Coliseum, Twenty and Entertainer of the Year award. To cap it off, Velasquez was also awarded The Most Successful Artist of the Year award by Walk Of Fame Philippines on December 4, 2007 in Eastwood, Quezon City. Other awardees honored at the event were Piolo Pascual, Kris Aquino, Richard Gutierrez, Celia Rodriguez, and Gina Pareno.
Early 2008, Velasquez was said to be "offered" the title role in a remake of Betty La Fea, which was to be produced by GMA-7's rival network, ABS-CBN. After series of controversies Velasquez then decided to sign a two-year exclusive contract with (because apparently there were no formal offers made by ABS-CBN there was just a misunderstanding on Velasquez's part which even made her bid farewell to her show SOP)the Kapuso Network where she was given the lead role for Ako si Kim Samsoon, the GMA remake of a popular Korean Drama, My Name Is Kim Sam Soon, with leading men Mark Anthony Fernandez and Wendell Ramos.
She also stars in her very own weekly musical variety show on GMA titled Songbird which premiered May 15, 2008. The show features a different musical theme each week. She will be hosting the second season of Celebrity Duets with Ogie Alcasid. Other notable projects by Velasquez in 2008 include "The Best of Me" Birthday Special, a musical romp through various music genres showcasing Velasquez versatility as a singer and performer. The repertoire included songs by Kenny Loggins, Eagles, Josh Grobin, Clair Marlo, Colbie Caillat and U2.
The "Up Close and Personal" solo U.S concert tour started in May 2008. Velasquez will also be providing the speaking and singing voice of the lead character in an animated musical film and contributed songs to the soundtrack.
A series of concerts with Lani Misalucha started with a tour of the US and Canada in September 2008 before moving to Manila in 2009. Also in 2008, Velasquez released her 15th studio album, Low Key, which earned a certified gold status three days after its release. In December 2008, she performed with Pops Fernandez, Kuh Ledesma, and Zsa Zsa Padilla in the biggest concert of the year at the Araneta Coliseum dubbed as Divas 4 Divas.
2009-present: Directorial debuts
Regine's Low Key under Universal Records became the first platinum album of 2009.
Velasquez also played Anna in the series Totoy Bato, a new soap in GMA-7. In March and May 2009, she went on tour at the US to stage The Divas 4 Divas US Tour; also, in 2009, Velasquez is hosting the new GMA singing competition, Are You The Next Big Star?.
Velasquez did a docu-biography show aired last May 24, 2009 on GMA Network as part of her month-long birthday celebration entitled "Roots To Riches." The show featured untold stories, "going back to Regine's roots from her amateur singing days in Malolos, Bulacan up to where she is now." She also gave citation to her young rival in singing competitions, Minerva "Eva" Castillo. They joined in one stage singing, "Ako Ang Nagwagi", a Dulce hit-song.
After being scheduled to perform at a concert with Charice Pempengco, Velasquez was forced to pull out after contracting the swine flu. She has since recovered.
At the final requiem mass for President Corazon Aquino, August 5, 2009, Velasquez sang a duet with Martin Nievera, "The Prayer."
Velasquez held a two-night concert entitled "Regine... Most Requested" at the SkyDome, SM North EDSA, which marked her return to the Viva fold. Eva Castillo appeared as her special guest.
Velasquez recently launched a perfume collection via Bench. The two new scents are branded as Reigne and Songbird. Reigne has a touch of sophistication but of a more pronounced charm of floral and fruit combined; Songbird has floral and powdery feel to it symbolic of daintiness that is light enough for everyday use.
In 2010, Velasquez is to co-produce DoReMi 2! with Viva Entertainment owner, Vic del Rosario. The movie, which has a tentative release date of December 25, 2010 will reunite Velasquez, Donna Cruz and Mikee Cojuangco as the three lead characters, as well as appearances by Aga Muhlach, Robin Padilla and Keempee de Leon.