She's an icon, she's a legend, and she is the thesis statement.
Regine Velasquez superfan Waxee Galang is achieving one dream after another as his undergraduate thesis at the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Mass Communication has been noticed by Asia's Songbird herself.
"Oh this is such a wonderful gift, sweethearts, thank you. I never thought I’d be a subject to a thesis, it’s really humbling. Thank you, Waxee R. Galang!" the singer posted with smiling and hearts emojis, tagging the student directly on social media. Her post has since received over 6,000 reactions, 300 shares, and 150 comments.
PhilSTAR L!fe got to talk with the UP student in an online interview, where we asked him some more about his research output titled You Make Me Shine: The Gay Fandom of Regine Velasquez and the Making of a Gay Icon. Here, he shares some of his most significant findings as well as the conclusion he included in his thesis.
What were some of the most important findings in your thesis?
Firstly, I was able to reach the primary objective of my study, which was to sort of historicize and identify how and why Regine is a gay icon in Philippine popular culture: where it came from, who instituted it, and what it meant for her career.
My most important finding would have to be that Regine’s gay icon status is forged and bequeathed to her by her gay fans. And this is borne out of the many instances of "identification" her gay fans attribute to her. More specifically, the majority of Regine’s gay fans identify with her rags-to-riches story, her struggles to arrive at success and fame, her controversial love life, her failures such as her Silver Concert, and many more narratives. These experiences of Asia’s Songbird are then coded to be queer or relating to the queer struggle for acceptance and belongingness.
Regine is both a camp and tragic figure—personas embodied heavily by gay icons in Hollywood such as Judy Garland, Cher, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Regine is camp in that she obviously has drag and pageantry influences in her style, gay lingo in her vocabulary, and stratospheric riffs that are extremely feminine-sounding and virtually beyond what is considered normal, hence queer.
She is a tragic figure in that she bleeds for her art. This is manifested heavily by her story-telling prowess in her performances. Probably her most camp performance to date is her Butterfly stint in her R2k Concert. Followed of course by my favorite camp performance of hers—singing Written in the Sand atop the Manila Peninsula!
Regine’s gay fans have used her star power to feel some sort of acceptance and power. They make use of her glamor and extravagance to feel how it means to be celebrated in their true identity and to use it as a sword and shield against an extremely harsh world.
Why did you choose Asia's Songbird as the topic?
I zeroed in on Regine because I’m a fan! But beyond that, I saw that there is a lack of studies about the country’s best-selling artist of all time. There was only one other thesis about Regine and it was completed way back in 2008. Regine’s life, career, talent, and iconicity are simply too inviting and colorful for them to be left unexamined. And more personally, I saw the making of this thesis as a tribute to her. I know that I’m not the only gay fan who identifies with her and have used her works as a guiding light to dig my way through the troubles of being a gay man in this lifetime.
How did your thesis adviser and department react?
I feel like it was just another day at the office for them. In UP Broadcast Communication, we are trained to look at celebrities and stars not as glamorized displays but as active agents in Philippine mass media and popular culture. And that alone, I think, is "reason enough" for them to be extremely worthy of academic attention.
My thesis adviser, Prof. Louie Jon Sanchez, was a match made in heaven. Apart from being an expert in star studies having authored so many of them, he is also a fan!
How did you pull off this topic? Was it challenging to do an "unconventional" thesis topic?
Urong-Sulong is the word for it! Charot!
Yes, it was difficult, mainly because there’s a lack of local theoretical frameworks designed to probe Filipino fandom.
That’s the struggle with being unconventional. No one has done it before (or at least a few have), so it’s a challenge to source materials that immediately corroborate my findings and support my evidence.
However, I was able to pull it off because of my respondents—the Reginian community! They were so welcoming to the idea of being studied for their fandom for Regine. And these firsthand accounts are the meat of my thesis, so I am incredibly grateful for them.
But there’s also beauty in doing the unconventional. It has the possibility to become a convention. My theoretical and methodological designs are [about to be] available for the study of other Filipino gay icons.
Additionally, Waxee was able to provide L!fe with the following excerpt from his conclusion:
Regine's gay fans are the main agents of Songbird's gay iconizing process. Definitely without them, she will not have made it to who she is now—a thriving institution in the music and entertainment industry and a fabulous gay icon and LGBTQIA+ hero.
Although she acknowledges the fact that the majority of her fans are gay, even suggesting that gays are the foundation of her professional success, Regine did not inaugurate herself as their icon. It was both a conscious and an instinctively spontaneous decision of the community to declare her a gay icon and that is a testament to her clout and impact on Philippine popular culture.
Regine's gay iconicity is a symbol of how she is aware of the space that the LGBTQIA+ community occupies and how she accepts and moreover celebrates them. This is a testament to Regine's heightened consciousness in participating in the cause. Regine is a gay icon in the sense that in the deep, rich sea of dynamite-hot male stars, the majority of gay fans attribute their screen awakenings to Regine.
In the Songbird is a queer element that seemed to have resonated thunderously with the voiceless minority that is the LGBTQIA+ community. This element that is characteristically gay is an impetus that drove many gay fans to admire her, worship her, engage productivities around her, and use her as an anchor for their own identities. Her remarkable contribution to the singular identities of queer people in the country makes up a collective institution not only of Regine's gay iconicity but her solidarity with the community.
In essence, as a gay icon, Regine is truly immortalized.