TikTok Star Zendee On Her Beginnings As A YouTube Sensation: “Kung Saan May Audition Noon, Ready Ako”

TikTok Star Zendee On Her Beginnings As A YouTube Sensation: “Kung Saan May Audition Noon, Ready Ako”
Image by @zendeeofficial / Instagram and from YouTube

If you’ve been a social media lurker for some time, you may have scrolled through an amateur video on YouTube in 2012, in which a young woman was singing Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You at a pop-up karaoke station beside the supermarket. This video, titled “A Random Girl Steps Up To A Karaoke Machine and Floors Everyone,” has garnered over 20 million views since, and that “random girl” Zendee Rose Tenerefe now has millions of followers on TikTok.

Born in General Santos, Philippines, 29-year-old Zendee has been joining singing contests since she was young. “Love ko na talaga ang singing. Since ‘yung mommy ko is a singer and my dad is a singer as well, na-influence din ako,” she reveals in an exclusive interview with OneLife.ph. “Yung mga tita ko lagi akong dinadala sa mga singing competitions para may pandagdag bigas kami.”

In 2012, an amateur video of her singing at a mall in Metro Manila went viral, and she says that this jumpstarted her career. According to Zendee, “Nakapunta ako sa Ellen DeGeneres show, ‘tapos nagkaroon ako ng commercial. And then, nakapag-front act na ako sa concerts like kay Jason Mraz. Ang dami!”

She moved to Manila in an attempt to find a job so she could earn money, always bringing her backpack with sandals, a dress, and several CDs. “Lagi akong may dalang backpack, like ‘yung sa video na ‘yun. Ang laman ng backpack ko du’n ay mga sandals and CDs,” she shares. “In case na may makita kaming mga hotels or mga auditions, ready ako.”

As a result, several opportunities started pouring in for Zendee, including her debut album I Believe which was released in 2013, just a year after her video went viral. But she says she didn’t pressure herself into becoming a recording artist – she just trusted that the universe had other plans. “Ang gusto ko lang talaga ever since ay magkaroon ng trabaho sa Manila to earn money. Ganu’n lang, ‘yun lang ‘yung mindset ko.” Zendee says she is eternally grateful for everything that happened.

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She’s not afraid to try something new

Having been in the industry for almost 10 years now, Zendee is aware that her entire career cannot center on one incident, and that, while helpful, one viral video can only do so much. Because of this, she ventured into different livestreaming platforms to further hone her skills and engage with her audience.

Nasa isang livestreaming application ako before, kung saan kumikita ako talaga. Kumakanta ako gabi-gabi kahit nawawalan na ako ng boses,” she says. However, when TikTok started consistently being number one on the trending apps list, Zendee took a risk and left her previous livestreaming platform.

Nag-risk talaga ako, ate!” Zendee says while laughing. “Sabi ko ‘wala akong pera,’ kasi sunod-sunod na month hindi ako nag-livestream, nag-stop ako.” But, like all her previous decisions, it was a risk worth taking as she has garnered almost 10 million followers on the platform. “Worth it naman kasi biglang lumaki ‘yung account ko. Nagkaroon ako ng project sa TV5 at sa ibang brands. Blessing din talaga,” she adds.

She believes in being your true self

 

Her TikTok profile is a combination of all kinds of videos: song covers, comedic skits, and challenges, as she is not the type to put herself in a box, so to speak. According to Zendee, her favorite videos to make are reactions to her followers’ comments. “Nagre-react ako sa mga comments ‘tsaka photos. For me, maganda ‘yung content na ‘yun kasi meron akong connections sa mga tao.”

Her supporters adore her laugh, and she’s thankful that she doesn’t have to pretend to be anyone else in order to be liked. “Love nila ‘yung tawa ko! Kaya I don’t have to be pabebe,” she says. “Ako bakulaw talaga ako tumawa. Kaya nakakatuwa, parang love nila kung sino ako.”

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Yup, she’s single!

 

On a more personal note, Zendee reveals she has had her share of romantic adventures, adding that she had her first relationship when she was in third year high school. However, she admits that it was not serious. “Alam niyo, lahat ng naging jowa ko either LDR (long-distance relationship) or hindi tanggap ng mama!” she says. “Hindi kami pwedeng magkita, text-text lang, ganern!”

Her ideal partner would be someone who is just like her. “I don’t really mind about the physical looks. Ako mas gusto ko ‘yung nakakatawa,” she says. “Gusto ko ‘yung kagaya sa ’kin, gusto ko wise, matalino, and supportive.”

With Zendee’s charming and funny personality, anyone would be lucky to have her!

 She has so much more to offer

 

Zendee is now an online host for Sing Galing: Now Zending, the online companion show for Sing Galing! on TV5. “Sobrang nag-e-enjoy ako. Iniisip ko nga minsan, paano ‘pag wala ‘to, ano kaya ang ginagawa ko ngayon?” She says that being on this project makes her feel like she has a purpose. “Parang may purpose ako everyday na gumising kasi alam ko ‘yung may nag-aantay sa akin ‘pag Now Zending!”

 

While she is enjoying her career, Zendee would love to have a family in five years’ time. “Feeling ko may baby na ako niyan, siguro may family na ako,” she says. However, she hopes that she would still be able to work on her passions even years from now.

May it be singing, hosting, making other people laugh, or being a ball of sunshine—Zendee’s personality is one of her greatest assets. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, she’s always ready to try something new, and most importantly, she remains unapologetically herself.

Catch Zendee on Sing Galing: Now Zending by visiting Sing Galing’s YouTube channel. Sing Galing! is on every day at 6:30 PM on TV5.

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