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.’s real name is Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, but she goes by Gabi.
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.
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.
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.’s favorite Filipino food is sinigang (a classic sour and savory tamarind stew). “My grandma makes the best sinigang,” she added.
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.“
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).
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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