"Since That Trip Home, I Felt Even More Connected To My Roots": H.E.R Recently Got Very Candid About Her Filipina Identity

While spending the holidays in the Philippines with her family, H.E.R. sat down with Vogue Philippines — which launched this past August — to talk about everything from her Black and Filipina American identity to her family and culture, including her favorite Filipino foods.

H.E.R. in front of a life size image of her Vogue Philippines cover

In fact, while getting ready, H.E.R. ordered herself some pancit palabok from room service. "When I'm here, I try to eat as much Filipino food as I can," she said.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

So here are 13 things the Grammy- and Oscar-winning musician and February 2023 Vogue Philippines cover star revealed about herself:

H.E.R. attends the 65th GRAMMY Awards
Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for The Recording Academy

1.H.E.R.'s real name is Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, but she goes by Gabi.

A close-up of H.E.R. smiling. H.E.R. is rocking dramatic winged eye makeup and her hair is pulled back into a ponytail
Frazer Harrison / WireImage

2.In 2014, H.E.R. released her first single under the name Gabi Wilson. Two years later, she chose to reinvent herself as an anonymous singer-songwriter (H.E.R. is an acronym for "Having Everything Revealed") to allow her music to shine.

H.E.R. performing as Gabi Wilson in 2014

"I had been through so much stuff that a young woman goes through," she said. "I wanted people to hear the message and really understand what I'm saying and not be so focused on what I look like or who I'm dating or what I'm wearing and all those things that to me, we started to focus on more because of social media."

GabbiWilsonVEVO / J Records / Via youtube.com

3.While H.E.R. can understand Tagalog, she's not comfortable speaking it. So, she asked her mom to help her practice before they went to the Philippines.

US singer-songwriter H.E.R. and her mother Agnes Wilson smile for photographers at the 2022 Billboard Women in Music awards
Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

4.She collaborated with Beauty and the Beast costume designer Marina Toybina to represent her Black and Filipino culture aesthetically. As a result, they wrote "Belle" on her apron in Baybayin (ancient Philippine writing).

H.E.R. as Belle with a close-up of her name is Baybayin

"I said, 'I want to pay tribute to my Filipino heritage. How can we do that?'" H.E.R. said. "And [Toybina] has a friend who's Filipino, who is an artist. He made that apron for me, hand painted the Baybayin on there and it says 'Belle.'"

Christopher Willard / ABC via Getty Images

5.H.E.R.'s favorite Filipino food is sinigang (a classic sour and savory tamarind stew). "My grandma makes the best sinigang," she added.

A screencap of H.E.R. talking about sinigang from Vogue Philippines' Instagram reel
Vogue Philippines / Via instagram.com

6.When she was 11, H.E.R. was on an episode of weekly magazine talk show Adobo Nation on TFC (The Filipino Channel), where she was introduced as "the girl with ginormous talent" and sang "Maging Sino Ka Man."

H.E.R. on Adobo Nation holding a guitar and being interviewed by two people when she was 11

Cohost Jaja Bolivar asked where she saw herself in 5 to 10 years, to which H.E.R. answered, "Well, hopefully a big musician, hopefully traveling, going on tour a lot and just doing stuff big."

During her recent holiday trip to the Philippines, H.E.R. (who is now 25) sang a rendition of "Maging Sino Ka Man" with her mother, uncles, aunts, and cousins in the living room of the house her mother grew up in in Cabanatuan. In fact, Vogue Philippines recorded them performing for an upcoming video.

Adobo Nation / The Filipino Channel / Via youtube.com

7.She got a chain with the Filipino flag, the sun, and the stars for Saweetie, who is also of Filipino and Black heritage (as well as Chinese).

H.E.R. and Saweetie perform during H.E.R.'s Lights On festival bay area
Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images for Lights On Festival Bay Area

8.Adobo, a soy-vinegar marinated dish, reminds H.E.R. of her tita Joan. "She makes the best adobo," H.E.R. said, before adding, "and it's not complete without saging," a sweetened banana-based dessert.

A plate of Filipino chicken adobo which sits on a bed of white rice
Banu R / Getty Images/iStockphoto

9.In 2019, H.E.R. returned to the Philippines for the first time since she was 4. She brought her immediate family with her, and they visited her mother's old home. "She's from Nueva Ecija, Cabanatuan City, the tricycle capital of the world,” H.E.R. said of her mother. "It was a humbling experience too, just to see. … Since that trip, I felt even more connected to my roots."

H.E.R. and her mother on the Oscars red carpet. Her mother is wearing a sequined halter dress and she H.E.R. is wearing a sequin and sheer gown with a hood

Her mother also finally reunited with her sister after 15 years. During their trip, H.E.R.'s family created a tradition to come back every year.

Handout / A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

10.H.E.R. knows a ton of Pinoy pop culture, having grown up watching Home Along Da Riles and as a fan of Sharon Cuneta, Gary V., and Jay-R.

screencap of Home Along da Riles starring Dolphy as Mang Kevin Kosme who's singing
ABS-CBN Entertainment / Via youtube.com

11.While in Manila for the holidays, H.E.R. ran into Jo Koy in her hotel, and he acknowledged how blessed they were to be able to bring their families to the Philippines.

A close-up of Jo Koy at a red carpet event

"My family is such a big part of who I am and what I do and how I even got here," she said. "I never would’ve thought I'd be able to fly my family to the Philippines. It's not an easy trip. It's not a cheap one. You know what I mean? I'm just grateful. This is why I work hard."

Frazer Harrison / The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

12.Growing up, H.E.R.'s after-school snack was Choc Nut (a chocolate candy bar).

Choc-Nut bars stacked on each other

She also enjoyed palabok, Filipino rice noodle, as a quick snack.


13.Lastly, while many of us may recognize H.E.R. by her sunglasses and signature big hair, she's been embracing bolder looks and sharing more of herself beyond her H.E.R. persona.

H.E.R. at the release party for her cover for Vogue Philippines holding up a copy of the magazine

"Throughout these past few years with success and all the great things that have happened, I think I've been moving so quickly," she said. "Now, I've taken a second to be like, what do I want and who am I? I think that’s a coming of age moment."

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

For more, check out H.E.R.'s full cover story with Vogue Philippines here.