WATCH: Hailee Steinfeld on connecting with her Filipino roots

Paolo Abad

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WATCH: Hailee Steinfeld on connecting with her Filipino roots
'I can’t believe I haven’t been here before and I’m so happy that I am here finally,' Hailee says. She also talks about melding her passions for music and acting, plus her work in 'Pitch Perfect 2'

MANILA, Philippines – Actress and singer Hailee Steinfeld has accomplished major feats throughout her budding career.

Her performance in the Coen Brothers’ Western film, True Grit (2010), earned her an Oscar nomination, among other accolades from the field of moviemaking. In 2015, she released her debut EP, Haiz, where she had finally pursued a longtime passion of hers: music.

Hailee articulately discussed her chosen career path at a press conference held a day prior to embarking on her series of mall shows in Manila. She is set to perform in Eastwood Mall (April 8, 7pm), Uptown Mall (April 9, 5pm), and Venice Grand Canal (April 10, 3pm).


For most of the time, she fielded questions about her music and acting career from the press, but she also addressed a topic that had inevitably popped up: her Filipino roots.

“My grandpa [Ricardo Domasin] is half-Filipino, my mom’s dad. My great-grandfather [Peter Domasin] came from Bohol,” Hailee told the press.

She said that the Filipino connection doesn’t end with her blood ties, and that she had been made aware “very early on” of how passionate and proud Filipinos could be.

“One thing I learned very early on about Filipinos and being Filipino is how much passion there is and how much sort of pride there is in being Filipino,” she said.

Hailee also said that however minimal her ties are to the Philippines and the Filipino people, she nonetheless feels “connected.”

“As little as there is in me, I really do feel so connected to the culture and to being here,” she said. “I can’t believe I haven’t been here before and I’m so happy that I am here finally.”

She added, “It’s something that’s so incredibly important that I can come somewhere that’s so far from home and feel like I’m home.”

On melding her passions for acting and music


Hailee said that music had always been a lifelong passion of hers that she had always wanted to pursue alongside her acting career.

“Music’s always been something that I loved and it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to pursue, and I started pursuing it at around the same time I pursued acting,” she shared.

“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 this the right way?'”

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Hailee demonstrated that her two passions were not mutually exclusive. Her professions co-exist, and in some ways, inform or affect each other.

“The fact that I’ve been able to make movies and play certain characters, and do research on certain times and places, it’s definitely sort of expanded my knowledge and I think that is very useful when I’m in the studio writing,” she explained.

Hailee expounded, “I really think that as an actor I’ve been put in certain situations multiple times where I’m meant to act like I’ve experienced something that I hadn’t. In some ways, it’s because of that I’ve experienced those things, through my acting.”

“When it comes to being in the studio and writing music, it’s sometimes hard to find inspiration especially when you don’t feel like you’ve experienced much.”

She added, “I do think that I owe so much to what I’ve done in my films playing certain characters to the writing because I feel inspired by movies in general.”

The golden opportunity for Hailee arose with Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to the hit film that depicted the competitive world of university a cappella singing. She played Emily Junk, the daughter of an alumna of the Barden Bellas.

“I’d always wanted to make music and I really always hoped that it would happen through a movie,” she said. “In some ways I was looking for a movie that would give me an opportunity to show people that I love to sing and that I’m serious about the idea of becoming a recording artist.”

Hailee also used the opportunity to touch base with industry stalwarts, given the exposure that the film had given her.

“When Pitch Perfect 2 came along and having been a fan of the first movie, I jumped at the opportunity and I sent the music that I’ve recorded in the past,” she recounted.

“It really was such an amazing opportunity because coming out of Pitch Perfect, I very randomly went to an event and was sat next to someone from Republic Records who ended up signing me to the label.”

She said that within 6 months, she had been able to release Haiz, her first EP. She revealed that she had been working on her full-length debut album.

Hailee said, “It’s so incredible that it all started with something I really, really wanted to do and it’s really all fallen into place and it ended up happening through a film, like I hoped.” –

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Paolo Abad

Paolo Abad writes, edits, and shoots for a living. He is one of the founding partners of the online radio platform Manila Community Radio.