Viet Nam News
Fillipina Janicee Aranjuez Buco is the first foreigner to win Việt Nam Idol. The seventh season of the Vietnamese-adapted British television singing contest concluded on October 1 at BHD Studio in District 9, HCM City.
Buco was born and raised in the Philippines, but she moved by herself to Việt Nam in 2009 at the age of 21 in search of a way out of poverty and to launch a singing career. At the contest, she beat rival finalist Việt Thắng, in a close race settled by an audience SMS (short message services) vote. The two singers battled from May through September, but in the end Janicee was the victor with 54.25 per cent of the vote.
Culture Vulture interviewed Buco on the win and her life in Việt Nam.
Were you the only foreign contestant at Việt Nam Idol 2016? What is difficult being a foreign contestant and how did you manage?
Yes, I was the only foreigner at the contest, and the most difficult part is that I can’t speak Vietnamese fluently. I can speak a little, but whenever I spoke, most people couldn’t understand me because my diction was wrong. And I needed to sing a Vietnamese song, of course.
But my Vietnamese husband, my friends at the contest, musical director Huy Tuấn and employees of the Việt Nam Idol contest helped me with my pronunciation. And I am so thankful to them.
One of the jurors, singer Bằng Kiều, said admiringly that "it is the most amazing moment I have seen during my career. She expresses her love for Việt Nam wonderfully," when he watched you sing "Hello Việt Nam" at the show finale. How did you feel?
I am so thankful to anh Bằng Kiều that he really felt my emotions. My proccess was that I usually selected two songs, and then I would ask my husband which song was more popular. I would then decide which song to sing depending on how many Vietnamese liked and knew the song.
Because if you know people love the song, it gives you the courage to push yourself to memorise the words. It was a challenge because the jurors only give one week to memorise each song. It made me feel like I was back in high school.
What will you spend your prize money on?
When I won, the contest organisers asked me what I would do with my prize. It’s true, I really do not know what to do, because for me it’s too much. I had set my mind to avoid thinking about whether or not I would win and decided to just enjoy and perform like it was my last performance at the contest.
But now I have plans. First, I will get my parents here so that they can know what Việt Nam is all about and can experience the life here. Second, I am going to make a music video for my first single soon. I will discuss the rest with my husband.
In the Philippines is there any singing contest like American Idol, and why did you take part in Việt Nam Idol?
Indeed, we had what we called Pinoy Idol, but it is not on anymore. In my country I only sang at home; I didn’t even participate in any contest at my school because I was so scared of rejection. I lacked confidence.
I had not planned to audition in Việt Nam Idol last March. I saw a lot of people waiting and I asked my husband to ask the organisers if I could try and they said yes. So I grabbed the opportunity right away. I told myself "maybe this is the time" and I made it. I knew a lot of people were complaining because I am not purely Vietnamese, but I reached the top 12 and even won the competition.
But there’s one thing I want to say -- I really feel like I am Vietnamese. I have lived here for many years, I love the food here, I work here and I love the Vietnamese people as they love Filipinos also. And most of all, I am married to a Vietnamese man. And I think I was fair with all the contestants. I sung a Vietnamese song and even they sang English songs.
What advantages and disadvantages did you face when you decided to settle in Việt Nam?
My advantage was that I didn’t have any problem with the culture. I can eat what Vietnamese people eat. It felt like I was living in the Philippines only because of the similarity. I have friends here too.
The only disadvantage is that I can’t speak Vietnamese fluently. I can’t express myself well because people need to hear the right diction to understand what I mean. I will study the Vietnamese language soon.
What has the Việt Nam Idol title brought to your life? Can you tell us your plans for the future?
Việt Nam Idol made my dream come true and gave me a chance to build a good future. I am overwhelmed by how the show welcomed a foreigner like me. They didn’t even treat me like a foreigner. — VNS