American actor and singer Vanessa Hudgens is leaning into her Filipino roots. In a new interview with Allure, she detailed her journey of connecting more deeply with her heritage, emphasizing, “I’m doing everything I can to let people know I’m Filipino.”
Misconceptions: While her iconic role as Gabriella Montez in 2006’s “High School Musical” and its 2007 sequel led many to believe she’s Latina, Hudgens is drawing attention to her true ethnicity, emphasizing her pride in being Filipino.
Philippines trip: 2023 marked Hudgens’ first trip to the Philippines with her family. The expedition was a deep dive into Filipino culture, spirituality and community. Hudgens described it to Allure as a “beautiful experience,” stressing how “it doesn’t matter how much you have… it’s about the people you choose to fill your life with.”
American upbringing: Raised “super, super American,” Hudgens admitted she didn’t feel too separated from other American kids during her school days. Her family meals featured Filipino staple rice, but her mom didn’t often speak Tagalog at home.
Seeking connection: The actor felt a gap in her identity due to her lack of a robust connection with her Filipino background. The yearning to more strongly root herself in her heritage drove her to visit and understand the Philippines, leading her to realize the power and pride of representation.
Dual identity: Hudgens’ story underscores the complexities of a mixed identity. Despite her American upbringing, she experienced moments of being categorized based on her appearance. This duality has further motivated her to let her Filipino heritage shine.
Representation Matters: Beyond her personal journey, Hudgens also highlighted the limited representation of Filipinas in pop culture. While she grew up with the iconic Lea Salonga as a figure to admire, today’s generation has rising figures like Olivia Rodrigo and Hudgens herself. The actress fondly recalled to Allure, “Girls come up to me and say, ‘you were the first person that I saw that looks like me on TV.’”