H.E.R. spotlights Filipino heritage in first look as Belle on ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Grammy Award winner H.E.R., real name Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, is repping her Filipino roots when she takes on the iconic role of Belle in a live-action special of Beauty and the Beast for the film’s 30th anniversary.

Filipino-American academic E.J. Ramos David first drew attention to the fact that H.E.R.’s costume has the indigenous Baybayin script printed on Belle’s signature apron, which reads as “Bel.”

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“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,” he wrote.

Baybayin, an ancient Philippine script, was the writing system used in the Tagalog language and was widespread in Luzon and other parts of the Philippines before being replaced by the Latin alphabet during Spanish colonization. Although functionally dead, interest in Baybayin has resurged in recent years.

In a recent interview with Good Morning America, H.E.R. talked about how excited she was to take on the role of Belle. “I never thought I could be a Disney princess. 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.”

Shania Twain, Martin Short, and Tony Award winner David Alan Grier join the Beauty and the Beast special.