In her signature tinted spectacles and bejeweled hooded jumpsuit, the 23-year-old Fil-Am singer H.E.R. accepted her first Academy Award for Best Original Song for a film about the Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton.
H.E.R.’s Fight for You is from the movie Judas and the Black Messiah, which was nominated for five Oscars at the 93rd Academy Awards.
She shares the award with her song collaborators Dernst Emile II and Tiara Thomas.
“I am so, so, so grateful, not only to win but also to be a part of such an important, important, story,” H.E.R., whose real name is Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, said in her acceptance speech.
She also thanked her parents—her mother, who was at the awards ceremony with her, and her father, who was a musician and helped shape her musical influences and contemporary R&B sound.
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“All those days of listening to Sly & the Family Stone and Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye really paid off, so thank you, dad,” said H.E.R., whose sartorial ensemble was reportedly inspired by the look of one of his music inspirations, Prince, in the 1985 Oscars where the icon won best original song score for the music in his film Purple Rain.
H.E.R., who is a vocal advocate for racial equality and women empowerment among other causes, also called on fellow musicians and artists to tell the truth in their work.
“Musicians and filmmakers, I believe we have the opportunity to tell the truth and write the history the way it was. Knowledge is power, music is power and as long as I am standing, I’m going to fight for us.”
In a backstage interview, the Vallejo, California-born singer expressed what it meant for her to win in the wake of the George Floyd murder verdict (in March, she won a Grammy for her I Can’t Breathe track, which was inspired by the death of George Floyd that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement).
“I couldn’t think of better timing to win something like this. I’m happy to be at the Oscars, I’m happy to be part of this important film that’s educating people. I feel connected to my roots,” she said.
With her win, the singer also hopes to inspire people to achieve their dreams, whether they are black or Filipino.
“Me just being up there is a message. It’s a message to all the young black or Filipino girls that you can be up here, too. What you say matters. What you sing matters. What you play, what you write, it matters.”
Fight for You won over songs Hear My Voice from The Trial of the Chicago 7, Husavik from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Io Sì (Seen) from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se from), and Speak Now from One Night in Miami.
With her recent wins in the Grammys and the Oscars, she’s only a Tony and an Emmy award away from being a member for the EGOT Winners’ Circle. Not impossible as H.E.R. is showing no signs of slowing down.