Vallejo-born award winning singer-songwriter FilAm H.E.R. shows off Filipino heritage

FILIPINO AMERICAN H.E.R. with her Academy trophy

SAN FRANCISCO – Award-winning singer and songwriter H.E.R. is very proud of her Filipino roots.

The Vallejo, California-born Emmy, Grammy and American Music Award winner who was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area showed this once more when she made a “heartwarming request” to bring her Filipino heritage to the limelight in the ABC special, “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration.”

H.E.R. (Having Everything Revealed), 25, born Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, is starring as Belle in the highly-anticipated special.

According to reports in US and Manila, the apron she wears in the opening scene bears a handpainted ancient Filipino script “Baybayin” which spells out “Bel.”

Much like in the original 1991 animated film, H.E.R. will don three iconic looks of Princess Belle for the special — the grand yellow ballgown, her pink winter ensemble, and the blue everyday garb, said costume designer Marina Toybina.

Published reports indicated H.E.R.’s eagle-eyed Filipino fans are loving the blue pinafore look more because of a special design element.

As seen in an image released by ABC, H.E.R.’s blue costume features an apron with the word “Bel” written in Baybayin embroidered on the piece.

Pinoy fans are loving the nod to Filipino heritage with a Twitter user saying, “Proud of this Bay Area Pinay and excited to see HER in BATB!”

Costume designer Marina Toybina told Variety H.E.R. wanted to pay homage to her Filipino roots, her mother being a Filipino.

“One day, she called me and said, ‘I want to do something important to my [Filipino] culture.’ In my sketch, we had the apron, and it was plain. Of course, I’m using the proper textile and cotton. She had the idea of doing something with a little ribbon, but I wanted to be bold,” Toybina said.

The costume designer said she had to learn Baybayin and tried to understand how important the script is to Filipino culture.

H.E.R., is starring alongside Josh Groban in the ABC two-hour special which mixes musical performances and animation and live-action sequences.

Apart from H.E.R., another Fil-Am actor is also part of the special’s ensemble. Actor Jon Jon Briones, famous for his portrayal of the Engineer in “Miss Saigon” West End revival, will bring to life Maurice, Belle’s father.
 Joining them in the “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration” are actors and singers Josh Groban as the Beast, Shania Twain as Mrs. Potts, Joshua Henry as Gaston, Martin Short as Lumiere, David Alan Grier as Cogsworth, among others.

The special also features other entertainment bigwigs, including Rita Moreno as the narrator. Jon M. Chu of “Crazy Rich Asians” is executive producing the special, with Hamish Hamilton set to direct.

The 30th anniversary special will air on American Broadcasting Company and stream on Disney+ this week.

In publisher reports, H.E.R. revealed her Filipino upbringing inspired her love for making music.

In a CNN Philippines’ New Day interview, she said she found her voice growing up in a close-knit family that’s supportive of her craft.

.E.R. has won the 2021 Grammy Award for Song of the Year for her single “I Can’t Breathe,” and the Oscars 2021 winner for Music (Original Song) with the song “Fight For You” from the film “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

“I would do music with or without accolades, with or without the recognition because it’s part of who I am. You have to love it regardless of how much success,” she said on her recent victory.

H.E.R. also noted that her mother always “kept her humble” and reminded her to “always thank God for blessings.”

She also shared some other things that kept her connected to her Filipino roots — food and family.

“During the quarantine I learned how to make kare-kare, and that’s my favorite,” she said.

“I grew up with my grandparents in the house. And one good thing about having a Filipino grandmother is that most immigrants would take care of their parents,” H.E.R. added. “I had my uncle, my mother’s brother, living in the house. It’s always a full house all the time!” (with Claire Morales True)