Hailee on what it means to have Pinoy roots
Micah Levin Isla (The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A true Hollywood It Girl — one with a legitimate talent to match the face — arrived in Manila with her relatable brand of spunk.

Actress and singer-songwriter Hailee Steinfeld is serving her infectious electro-pop sound in Uptown Mall (today at 5 p.m.) and Venice Grand Canal (tomorrow, April 10, at 3 p.m.) for all her Filipino fans to enjoy. She performed at Eastwood Mall yesterday.

In a press conference at Marco Polo, the 19-year-old star talked about her blossoming career and her first love — music.

At 14, Hailee has already caught the attention of critics when she joined the stellar cast of the Coen Brothers’ western thriller True Grit as feisty little Mattie Ross, a role that earned her an Oscar nod. This feat opened more doors in film, but her singing had to take a backseat — then Pitch Perfect 2 came along.

“Music’s always been something that I love and always been something that I wanted to pursue; I started pursuing it around the same time I began to pursue acting, but the acting took off quicker and the music became more of a side project over the last couple of years. And it was really always a matter of ‘How am I going to transition and be doing it the right way?’”

But Hailee somehow knew how she wanted to jumpstart her musical endeavor — by way of the big screen.

“I had always hoped that it would happen through a movie, so when Pitch Perfect 2 came, it was the perfect opportunity for me to use that as a segue into making music,” she said.

Hailee shared that she was a huge fan of Pitch Perfect — the funny blockbuster that exposed the crazy world of collegiate a cappella singing competitions in 2012.

“My family would always sing along to the songs; we were all connected to this little film; I wondered if there would be a sequel, I would want to be part of that,” she recounted.

And so it happened — she joined the ensemble as Emily Junk, the wide-eyed newbie who happens to be the daughter of a Barden Bella alumna.

“Part of the role involved being in the studio, recording and performing. That’s when I realized that I have to do this, that I have to start focusing on my music,” she said.

“Making movies has expanded my knowledge and I bring the experiences I have as an actress to the (recording) studio,” she added.

In a serendipitous encounter at an event in New York sometime after Pitch Perfect 2 wrapped up, Hailee met Charlie Walk, an executive from Republic Records. She worked up the nerve to talk about her music and later on, the label signed her up. Within six months, she had been able to release her introductory EP Haiz, which carries her entrancing single Love Myself.

It might come as a surprise to many that Hailee has a Filipino blood. Her grandfather, her mom’s dad Ricardo Domasin, is half-Filipino. Naturally, questions about her Pinoy roots — and what it means to her — cropped up.

She said, “Very early on, I was made aware of how much passion and pride Filipinos put into anything. I feel so connected to the people and the culture. It is so nice to be somewhere far from home and still feel like I am home. I’m so happy to be here!”

Hailee, who’s already in love with chicken adobo and the Philippine weather, left a piece of advice for young hopefuls who are still finding their voice.

“We all live in a world where whatever we do, we kind of leave it open for anybody to say anything. If you have that self-confidence and reassurance then it won’t matter,” she started.

“Do not give up and know that if it’s something that you love and passionate about, it can never be a wrong thing.”

The versatile star also revealed that she’s currently working on a full-length album. Watch out, Hailee is only beginning.

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