Filipina music diva Jessa Zaragoza had her share of impersonators in the Philippines because of her unique singing style and mannerisms on stage. Image Credit: HADRIAN HERNANDEZ/Gulf News

Mention Bollywood and Filipina music diva Jessa Zaragoza breaks into a knowing smile.

“Wait, I think I know what you’re going to ask me next!” the singer-actress told tabloid! ahead of her mini-concerts in Dubai.

We ventured anyway: Does she know she bears a striking similarity to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan?

“I get that a lot,” she said. “So I got curious and searched her on the internet. Then I saw her as a guest on Oprah. She’s really beautiful. Am I that beautiful?” she asked in a self-deprecating tone.

There’s no doubt that Jessa is a personality entirely her own. In fact, she’s had her share of impersonators in the Philippines because of her unique singing style and mannerisms on stage.
How does she feel about that? “It’s a compliment for me when people impersonate me. It’s a sign that they appreciate my work. I don’t get offended or anything,” she said.

The OPM (Original Pilipino Music) singer is considered a cultural icon in the Philippines, winning eight platinum awards for her albums, including the phenomenal hit single Bakit Pa?, which catapulted her to fame. This was followed by other hits like Paano Kaya? and Di ba’t Ikaw.

Jessa was in Dubai for a three-day musical event at Rocky’s Café at the Regent Palace Hotel in Bur Dubai. This was her first time in the city after 10 years. “It’s still as hot as I remember it,” she said. On top of her to-do list was a visit to the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall.

And why didn’t her husband, singer-composer Dingdong Avanzado, accompany her here? “He’s busy working on his new album. And someone needed to stay with our daughter,” she said. Is she happy with Dingdong, we pressed. “I’m very happy. Doesn’t it show?”

She said she was excited to perform again in Dubai. “I want to feel the warm reception of fellow Filipinos and fans here.”

Her most memorable encounter with a fan happened here 10 years ago. “There was this Arab fan who knew my songs. He surprised me when he sang Bakit Pa and my [Tagalog] songs. He even had a copy of my album.”

New show and album

It’s been a busy year for Jessa Zaragoza, who has just launched her latest album Jessa Sings the Great Musical — her first after six years —and is starring in a new series on Philippine TV network ABS-CBN. She told tabloid! that she will be appearing alongside pop princess Sarah Geronimo and heartthrobs Sam Milby and Coco Martin in a musical drama and comedy show called Idol. It is scheduled to be aired in September on The Filipino Channel (TFC). She’s also planning on continuing her world tour to promote her latest album.

According to Jessa...

Top songs on your iPod:
“Michael Bolton’s Said I Love You But I Lied . It’s my favourite. Lately, by Stevie Wonder, but I like my version! Most of the songs on my iPod right now are the songs that I will be singing [in Dubai].”

Last book you read:
“I don’t really like to read because when I read anything, I fall asleep.”

The gadget you can’t live without: ”Cellphone.”

Best place you have visited”
“I like Europe. It’s beautiful.

The most iconic performer ...:
“Madonna because she was able to reinvent herself.”

Last meal you cooked:
“Cook? I don’t cook, I just eat! [laughs]. But I clean the house, I take care of my husband and daughter.”

Last outing with family:
“Recently we had a dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the Philippines.”

What’s your beauty tip?
“I don’t really have a beauty regimen. But No 1 for me is using moisturiser and sunblock to avoid freckles.”

Do you write your own songs?
“I tried before but I’m not so talented. My husband, Dingdong, writes songs.”