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Up close and personal with Austria’s darling

Up close and personal with Austria’s darling

Vincent Bueno, 35, is a grateful man. Whenever he talks about his musical journey, he does not forget to acknowledge his father, who inspired him to make music, and the people who helped him become the first Asian to compete at the Eurovision Song Festival

Born in Austria  to Ilocano parents, Bueno is no stranger to life’s punches. Six years ago, he and his wife Charity Grace, lost their newborn baby to anencephaly, and recently one of his closest nieces, Rachel, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Year 2020 gave Bueno a double punch. He was to represent Austria at the Eurovision Song Festival, perhaps the biggest break in his music career in Europe when the Covid-19 pandemic hits the entire world, halting everything, including Eurovision. To end an already difficult year, a terrorist randomly started shooting people in Vienna, where Vincent and his family live, sowing additional fear to everyone’s heart. 

Bueno turned to music for healing.  He spent countless hours in Suitcase Media, his studio in Vienna, producing music, and pouring his hearts out to his lyrics. 

For Bueno, 2021 is provision time.

Vincent Bueno performing Amen at the Eurovision 2021.

“Once you become aware that everything is a gift from God, gratitude will naturally flow from your heart. And when you went through so many hardships, you just appreciate the other side of the coin.  Five years ago, I was a nobody, I felt like people did not even listen to me. Now 200 million people have listened to me, how can you not say thank you?”

Bueno was raised with strict Filipino and Catholic values. His mother, a nurse, is a disciplinarian, while his father is more liberal. Yet, like any Filipino kid, Bueno was not able to avoid the belt.

Did your parents also spank you?

Bueno laughs in the most infectious way. 

“Three times, by my father, buckle included. That is when I knew I fucked up, that I did something really wrong. I was a teenager, and I was cutting classes. But I have always been a little rebellious. I had a double life going. I was a member of the Youth for Christ. I was this (good) guy during the day, and at night I was like the devil.”

He recalls memories of trying to warn his Austrian friends about the smelly sauces in the house or introducing them to dinuguan. While his childhood memories were generally happy, he was not able to escape racism. Bueno’s reaction was just to swallow everything. 

“I was sometimes very depressed, but I couldn’t express it. It was painful, to be called names like Chinese, chinchangchung. It takes a toll in your heart as a child.”

Vincent Bueno will be covering James Park as Thuy in Miss Saigon Austria.

Now that he is more secure about who he is, Bueno has found the courage to call out of racism whenever he encounters it. And he is bent on shielding his children from it.

The Bueno couple teaches their children about racism and encourages them to tell them if they feel attacked.

“I’m aware that not every parent takes care of the behavior of their children, but I take care of mine. Once I feel that my daughters are threatened or bullied, I want to be there as a father.”

Being the son of a professional musician, Bueno was naturally drawn to music. At 11, he could already play four instruments. He went on to study at the Vienna Conservatory of Music, finishing a degree in Music and Performing Arts when he was 22. 

As a versatile performer, Bueno can switch from pop to classic. In 2007 he was part of Austria’s Musical! Die Show, singing classical pieces from Phantom of the Opera to Miss Saigon and Mary Poppins. He earned praises from Philippine theatre veterans, calling him a phenomenon.

Bueno is the first Asian and Filipino to perform at the Eurovision Song Festival.

Did his parents ever discourage him from being a musician?

Bueno amusingly recalls his mother saying, “Follow your dreams, do what you want, but one day consider doing something more intelligent, something serious.”

He would sometimes tell his mom that he was considering becoming a nurse, and she would quip, “Finally, my son is becoming matinó.

Bueno’s parents have always been supported of his ambitions. When he was young, Bueno was a regular performer in parties and Filipino events. Within the Filipino community in Austria, Bueno is known as Mr. Gary Vienna, a play on the name of popular Filipino singer Gary Valenciano. Even at an early age, he knew that he belonged  to the stage.

“I felt like it was my destiny, I felt like I belonged there to entertain people.”

His father is perhaps, most proud of him for representing Filipino talent on a prestigious European stage.

Experiencing the world of Philippine showbiz

Vincent forayed into the Philippine music scene in 2010, which included guesting in variety show ASAP XV, mini concerts and even managed to release a successful single called Party Hard. But his career in the Philippines was short-lived.

“I had such a hard time when I was in the Philippines, particularly with embracing the culture. The Filipino concept of pakikisama (trying to get along) was new to me and I felt like I was faking it. I was not yet settled in my personality. I was very insecure, and I was still searching for  my style. I found it difficult to fit in.”

Eventually Vincent learned the quirks of Filipino culture. And at the same time, he met his wife Charity Grace. A singer, theater actress and model, Charity Grace was the voice behind the young Princess Kiara in Disney’s Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. She also played the lead role in the musical Annie in the Philippines. Charity Grace now makes up the half of The Buenos singing duo with her husband.

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Bueno with wife, Charity Grace.

“I never imagined to be marrying a Filipina. How I could find somebody who really, really like me (being) a crazy dude that I am. We met at a time when I had no money at all. We went through literally nothing, we were stretching our last pesos so we could eat.”

The couple has been together for nine years and their marriage  has produced three children, Kezzy, Samantha and Krista. Like normal couples they also went through tough times, particularly because of their backgrounds. Although both born to Filipino parents, Bueno was raised in a European environment while Charity Grace grew up in Seattle, Washington. Culture clash was inevitable. Bueno reveas that they went to several couple’s therapy sessions to fix their differences. 

“It’s a rollercoaster with my wife but you cannot say that there are any relationships that is harmonious all the time. We are very honest to each other. This honesty between husband and wife  is so important. It’s important to ask your partner, how do you need me, how do I need you?”

According to Bueno, humor is one important reason why there are still together. Having multiple cultural influences, they automatically switch to their quirky Filipino personalities and accents whenever a fight is brewing. Laughing with each other usually prevents a full-blown fight. 

“It’s sad when you can’t laugh with your partner.”

How is he as a husband?

“I learned the love language of my wife, the dos and don’ts of our relationship. I am more into affirmation, for my partner to assure me that she loves me. I am practical. Gifts are not my love language. Some people need to give, some people need time, some need physical. I am very physical.”

Bueno says his wife knows how precious his fans are to him. But he does not give her any reason to be jealous, just full access to his Instagram account. 

As a family man, Bueno is a doting father, who melts at the sweetest request from his daughters. He wants to believe that he is strict, when necessary, especially when teaching respect to his daughters. 

The Bueno Family: Vincent and Charity Grace with their daughters Kezzy and Krista.

Finding his purpose

He wants to bring more authenticity to his music. He is also embracing more of his Filipino identity and wants to use his platform to introduce the Filipino culture to Austria. Bueno became the Goddwill Ambassador of the Philippine Austrian Cultural & Educational Society (PACES) for 2021-2022. At 35, he already knows his purpose.

“I don’t want to sound preachy, but I really feel that my purpose is to be used for the better of humanity. I don’t want to say that I want to change the world, but I want to use this God-given talent to make the world a better place.” 

In one interview, Bueno said that his versatility is partly a result of not being fully accepted, in both Austria and The Philippines, and in the classical and pop music world. Does he feel more accepted after Eurovision?

“Representing Austria and the Philippines is such a big honor, especially for the Filipino community. I really felt their support. It was also a statement from Austria, from our television broadcaster. While they see me as an artist, and not as a Filipino, they could have been bashed as well, or chosen a full-bloodied Austrian. I feel more accepted now.  But you will never change the world in one day.”

This article was first published in the Summer Issue 2021 of The Filipino Expat Magazine.
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