I had the pleasure of speaking with the beautiful Cheesa from “The Voice: Season 2” and her talented, brotherly counterpart, Troy Laureta. Throughout the conversation, the two had a playful, enthusiastic aura about them that suggested an unrivaled support system between the musical duo.
With their raw talent and undying commitment to their dreams, there is absolutely no question that these two will overcome any adversity to achieving their goals.
Take a look at BakitWhy's exclusive interview.
BW: Before we start, I just want to say congratulations with all your success on “The Voice”. It was a pleasure watching you perform. And honestly, when I found out about the elimination, I wasn't even worried for you because this is just the start of your career and we can’t wait to see what else you have in store.
Cheesa: Thank you SO much.
BW: So we know the inspiring story of how your family sacrificed for you to move to Hollywood at a very young age to pursue your dreams. You know that typically, the traditional Filipino family usually pushes for the law degree, a master’s, a doctorate…to the infamous, “Why don’t you just be a nurse?” question. What can you say about your family’s contribution to making your dreams come true?
Cheesa: It actually took a while to convince my dad. And what you said was definitely true. He wasn’t all for it in the beginning. He was a singer, himself, and he tried the whole singing thing, which is why I understand why he didn’t want us to go that route. So he pushed us to, you know, be a nurse and have a stable job. But after a while and with the help of mom, we convinced him that we weren't backing down from this. When the opportunity with “The Voice” came around, that was a big push for my dad to really see that I could actually make a career out of this. It took five years to get to this point and for the first time, because of “The Voice”, I’ve been able to see how proud he is of me.
My brother and I really fought for what we wanted and we argued, 'No dad, we’re not going to be the typical nurse, doctor, etc…this is what our dream is and you’re gonna have to live with it.'
BW: You were 15-years-old when you first moved here with your family. Big props to your parents for supporting you through this entire journey. Because of this back story, there must have been a ton of pressure for you to make them proud. What struggles did you face moving to the mainland?
Cheesa: Leaving everything behind and having to start all over again was definitely a huge struggle for me and my family. Yes, the pressure was there. I really didn’t want to let my family down, which is why I shed a few tears at the results show because I wanted to make them proud. When I was on stage and looked to my brother and parents in the audience, it was definitely uplifting and I just know that this isn't the end.
Troy: OH YES. We come from a background of doctors, lawyers, people getting their master’s…we were looked upon as the rebel children. We really had something to prove, not only to the world but to our family. And we get it – everyone was worried that music is not a stable thing, but it was up to us to prove them wrong. And especially for Cheesa. (Directed towards Cheesa) 'I applaud you, Chees, to do what you had to do.'
BW: Was there a time where you almost wanted to give up and what made you push through it?
Cheesa: Definitely. It’s crazy because last year, I felt like I wasn’t doing anything to further my music career. It was like I was stuck at home watching T.V. with my 9-5 job and I didn’t know what my next move was going to be.
With the support of Troy, he really pushed me and I tried out for “The Voice” a second time. After the first time I got denied, I started thinking, 'I’m tired of these reality shows. I’m never gonna make it.' My brother definitely helped me push through it all and I'm grateful for him. I’m also very grateful to even make it this far to the Top 3 for Cee-Lo’s team.
Troy: For Chees, we tried going to shows like “MTV”, “Making the Band”, and “America’s Got Talent”, but we didn’t get the response wanted. So when the open slot for “The Voice” came up, I kept telling her, ‘Just do it. Just do it for fun. There’s nothing to lose.’ We were so used to performing together that it was a different experience for the both of us.
BW: What was the transition like for you to go from your 9-5 to being on one of the top rated singing competitions in the nation?
Cheesa: It felt really surreal. It was weird, actually. (chuckles) I went from 200 Twitter followers to 12,000 in such a small window. I’m extremely grateful and I got to learn so much. It was really fun, actually. The experience on “The Voice” is so unique and I was able to explore different avenues and song choices. I learned so much from the fashion to the hair styles to choosing songs and I’m still learning who I am as an artist.
BW: I looked up some of your older YouTube videos with Troy, which were inspiring to watch. This question is for Troy – what can you say about the entire experience from singing as a child with Cheesa to people now recognizing her on a national level?
Troy: It’s crazy. All the changes and amount of growth shes’s made in such a short period of time…it’s just crazy. “The Voice” opened her up to being more open about her feelings and opened up avenues far beyond anything we could have imagined. Now, she’s more comfortable in her own skin.
The biggest thing “The Voice” gave her was to really be herself and discover herself. It taught her to be a leader and I wanted that. I’m very proud. I’ve always been a big brother to her and from that perspective, you see a lot of artists lose control of their individuality and they die out. From this experience, Cheesa’s starting to know what she wants and she loves that and I love that.
BW: And Troy, I didn’t know this before, but you’ve toured with the likes of Jordan Pruitt, Demi Lovato, David Archuleta and even became the musical director for Melanie Fiona. How has the Troy Laureta musical experience been for you?
Troy: I sat down a couple months ago, thought about it, and the journey has been…well, it’s funny because where I am with all this is no where near where I thought I wanted to be. Chees and I were so set on being a duo and it’s just crazy to see where God takes you. I’ve got to work with David Foster…Charice…I was even on Oprah. It’s funny because you think you know what you’re doing and then you get your job…and then you realize there’s always going to be so much more to learn.
I’ve grown so much as a leader, as a musical director, and now it’s going full circle and I’m planning on being Cheesa’s band manager.
BW: Didn’t Melanie Fiona do a collab song with Cee-Lo? How did you feel to see Cee-Lo choose your very own sister to be part of Team Cee-Lo?
Troy: It’s crazy how small the industry is. We were actually touring with Melanie and Cheesa was doing background for the tour. It’s crazy how everything came together. Everyone is so connected and we were just all very excited.
BW: Growing up, how involved were you both with the Filipino community? Very involved? Not very involved at all? Did you ever go through a period of trying to understand your Filipino identity?
Cheesa: We were definitely a big part of the Filipino community. Especially in Hawaii, we were always performing for Filipino events and Filipino parties. We knew who we were. We know who the community was. Because of that background, we will always be very involved and very proud to be Filipino.
Troy: This is my personal take – I don’t think a lot of Filipino Americans represent pride in who they are. Chees and I are so proud to be Filipino American and we’re not ashamed. You know, it’s not a contradiction to be cool, have swag, be soulful and also be Asian. Be proud of your roots. No matter what happens, we will still be involved in the Filipino community.
BW: Have either of you been back to the Philippines?
Both: YES. (laughs)
BW: What was that experience like? Did it spark any desire for you to want to be “a voice” for the community and give back?
Cheesa: Going back there was definitely a unique experience. We went back to Cebu and saw where my mom grew up. She was one of 18 children and lived in a little house with her family. When she told me everything she had to go through, it was definitely a motivation for me to keep pushing. She sacrificed so much as a kid coming to America and so did my dad. Being immigrants from The Philippines and understanding their struggle, I want to give back to that, you know? They lived the American dream for us and I don’t want to see them struggle anymore. I know why they pushed us to be the nurse or to be the lawyer because they didn’t want to see us go through the same struggle. Because of that, I definitely want to give back and represent Filipinos in a positive way.
BW: What’s next for Cheesa? From here on out, will it be a Cheesa and Troy duo? Or should we all expect solo careers from you guys?
Troy: No matter what, it will always be Cheesa and Troy. Everything has a time and place and right now it’s Cheesa’s time. For a while, it was my time and now with “The Voice” and everything going on with her, it’s her time to shine.
BW: Is there anything specific you want to say to the Fil Am community? Now that you know you have their support, any messages to send? How did you feel about the response from the Fil Am community?
Cheesa: I want to say 'maraming salamat'! Filipinos have got to be the BEST supporters and I truly thank you guys. For all the young Filipinos out there, never give up on your dreams. It’s always going to be a struggle. But you know that with the fight, you will grow stronger. You have to always fight for what you want. Because of this entire experience, I want to inspire other people to remind them that they’re a force to be reckoned with. Never give up on what you want.
Troy: I guess my advice would be to just be proud of who you are whether it’s with your ethnicity, beliefs, etc. A lot of people get caught up in the hype of impressing others and lose themselves and it's important to show the real you. When you do that, you become more successful.
Especially for the youth, be proud of your Filipino roots. We come from a people of struggle and hard work and from people who always get over the struggle. We are a passionate people. A beautiful people. I just want people to be proud. We are a people of power. It’s inspiring to see Filipinos starting to succeed in the limelight. It’s inspiring. I want to promote that. It’s about time Filpinos got the limelight for a little bit.
Thank you to Cheesa and Troy for taking the time to speak with BakitWhy. We look forward to your inevitable success. Big thanks to Cheesa's PR team, Bryant Verador and Shalimar Zabanal, for coordinating the interview.
Be sure to tune into Cheesa's performance on Kababayan LA18 with Jannelle So today, April 26th, at 4:30pm pacific standard time.
Be sure to follow Cheesa and Troy on Twitter: