Vanessa Hudgens on her Filipino roots: ‘I am proud’
Many people undoubtedly know that Filipino-American actress Vanessa Hudgens portrayed Gabriella Montez in the hit Disney trilogy “High School Musical.” Since then, Filipinos have consistently embraced her, taking pride in her Filipino-American heritage.
Despite being a notable figure for a lot of Filipinos, Hudgens had not visited the Philippines until March of this year. Even so, she was appointed as the country’s global tourism ambassador for her “contributions to promoting the Philippines as one of the world’s best tourism destinations.” This award received mixed reactions from the public, making her a polarizing figure right now.
In an interview with Allure, the “High School Musical” star shared that a lot of people automatically assumed that she’s Latina because most of the roles she played in the past, including Gabriella, were Latin characters.
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“When I tell them I’m Filipino, they’re like, ‘What?!’ You haven’t met my mother,” says Hudgens, emphasizing the fact that she has a Filipino mother. “I think that I’m quite ambiguous so people don’t really know. But I am doing everything that I can to let people know because I am proud.”
“The most incredible thing is when I have these girls come up to me, and they’re like, ‘you were the first person that I saw that looks like me on TV.’ I want to cry. It’s just really beautiful to be able to be an identifying person that helps allow others to feel seen”
The current Philippines’ global tourism ambassador didn’t get treated differently back in school, too, stating that she had a “super, super American” upbringing, and her Filipino mother didn’t speak the language at home—except that she still eats rice with every meal, just like every Filipino does.
Her first visit to the country had a specific aim: to reconnect with her native land and delve deeper into her Filipino roots as she filmed a travel documentary with director and Presidential Adviser on Creative Communications Paul Soriano. She felt like she was filling in a “missing piece” of herself and found it empowering to know her roots and represent her heritage.
The Filipino representation
Growing up, “The Princess Switch” actress told Allure that she didn’t have many fellow Filipinas to look up to in pop culture. She expressed her excitement at seeing Lea Salonga become the voice for Disney princesses Jasmine and Mulan.
In terms of having more Filipino representation on the global stage, she acknowledged Olivia Rodrigo, a fellow “High School Musical” alum as her “mini-me.”
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“The most incredible thing is when I have these girls come up to me, and they’re like, ‘you were the first person that I saw that looks like me on TV.’ I want to cry. It’s just really beautiful to be able to be an identifying person that helps allow others to feel seen.”
Representing Filipinos, despite still learning about her roots, in the entertainment industry is a role that Hudgens cherishes and takes great pride in.