High visibility on YouTube

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on December 24, 2007

Ellen Degeneres says her staff discovered 15-year-old singing sensation Charice Pempengco on YouTube, and flew her to Los Angeles to performn on the show. Of course, it will be interesting to see if the talented Ms. Pempengco will successfully leverage her new visibility to create opportunities to sustain her celebrity. But her example is also interesting in the context of some of the comments her videos have elicted.

As is typical, Filipinos are justifiably proud of Ms. Pempengco’s performance on the Ellen Degeneres show, and the acclaim she has received. Others, however, can’t help but wonder why Filipinos are making such a fuss. One viewer, for example, noted that Americans don’t use the celebrity of American performers as an indication of national worthiness. After all, many American and other performers also face daunting hurdles to achieving visibility and success. When they do, they are admired as individuals, not as examples of America’s place in the world.

The implication is that Filipinos are so insecure in their national identity, that when a compatriot does achieve international visibility, their example is widely hyped to show that Filipinos can compete with the best, anywhere. The reality is that Filipinos working around the world in many challenging professionals achieve success. What they don’t do is broadcast that success. And they probably should, for the national psyche, as well as to generate new opportunities for themselves personally.

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