Grammy Award-winning singer Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, also known as H.E.R., made history as the first Black-Filipina woman to play the iconic Disney princess Belle in ABC’s live-action Beauty and the Beast special.
On her celebrated debut as a Disney princess, Filipinos noticed a particular detail on the first look of H.E.R.’s outfit that made them excited about the representation of the Philippine Heritage by the singer.
Filipino-American academic E.J. Ramos David was the first one who noticed that H.E.R.’s costume has the indigenous Baybayin script printed on Belle’s signature apron, which means “Bel.”
The talented H.E.R. (Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson) – 1st Filipino & Black artist to play “Belle” in “Beauty and the Beast” (airs on ABC on Dec. 15) – represents her Filipino roots through indigenous Tagalog baybayin writings on her outfit. The writing says “Bel”. This is dope. 🤎 pic.twitter.com/6I9ztiWYfX
— E.J. Ramos David, Ph.D. (@ejrdavid) December 8, 2022
Baybayin is one of the precolonial writing systems used by early Filipinos, arrested from before Spanish colonization through to at least the eighteenth century. The term “baybayin” comes from the Tagalog root word baybay, which means “to spell.”
In an interview with Good Morning America, the singer discussed how excited she was to take the role of Belle. “I never thought I could be a Disney princess,” H.E.R. said. “Of course every little girl wants to be a Disney princess, but I’ve never seen one that looks like me — so I get to be that to little girls now.”
When asked about what will make her Belle different, H.E.R. shared, “I think the world has never seen a Black and Filipino Belle and there’s a strength in Belle that I think we forget about sometimes, and I think people are gonna see that, musically, and just in the way that she is.”
The star-studded cast joining H.E.R. are Josh Groban as The Beast, Martin Short as Lumiere, Shania Twain as Mrs. Potts, David Alan Grier as Cogsworth, Joshua Henry as Gaston, Rizwan Manji as LeFou, Jon Jon Briones as Maurice, and Leo Abelo Perry as Chip.
The live-action special will air on ABC on Dec. 15 and on Disney+ the next day.
What are your thoughts on H.E.R. taking the role of Belle? Share with us in the comments below!
Featured photos by ABC (left) & EJ Ramos David (right)