H.E.R. on Working With Disney Dreamers Academy, Starring as Belle in ABC Version of 'Beauty and the Beast,' Advice to Younger Self and Young Dreamers and More

H.E.R. is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist in R&B music, and she brought her artistic ability and wisdom to the 2023 Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA). The Oscar, Emmy, and five-time Grammy award-winner participated in mentoring the annual program, which brings Over four days, Disney Dreamers are introduced to new opportunities throughout the four-day event, including career sessions that teach valuable life tools, leadership skills, effective communication techniques, and networking strategies. Students also partake in in-depth workshops that align with their specific disciplines in dreams throughout the fields of business, entertainment, and sciences, and even career opportunities within The Walt Disney Company.

H.E.R. has experienced the magic of Disney herself, starring as Belle in the recent ABC special Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration. She will join the all-star cast of the reimagined version of The Color Purple musical film adaptation as "Squeak" later this year. As an artist who started off in the industry when she was barely a teenager, she has a lot of experience she can impart on the Dreamers.

PopCulture.com was among a handful of media outlets that attended this year's DDA. She gave advice on how to continue to dream big, spoke about her work with Disney, the importance of creativity and diversity, and more. 

Media question: With these 100 students, what is the one thing you want them to take back?

H.E.R.: Just one? It's so many things. I guess, really just enjoy the journey. It can be tough and challenging, but that's what's going to make you stronger in the end. So, just enjoy the journey.

PC: There's a huge inclusivity effort on Disney's behalf. You played Belle. Yara Shaidi is playing Tinker Belle. And then, obviously, Ariel with Halle Bailey. How are you taking in all of this Black girl magic?

It's just too much. It's amazing. I love to see it. It's about time, honestly. And little girls... if you don't see it, you don't know, you could be it. So it's really, really, really important. So, I'm happy about it. 

Media question: You were a child star yourself. So, kind of coming into this today, and the Dreamers, just being so young and they have so much ahead of them, any advice that you can give them? What to look forward to? How to keep their head on straight, and things to look out for in this world?

Man, just look at the bigger picture. Don't be afraid to step into your power. I'm just learning that, what it really means to be a leader and what it means to just use your voice. Because a lot of people will make you think that you don't have one. So, it's just important to always remember what I'm saying is important. What I have to say is important. And who I am, it adds value to any room I walk in. And it's important to carry yourself with that.

Media question: The Dreamers are going into these deep dive sessions, or they're getting career exposure? What deep dive would you go into if it was not entertainment?

So, I actually would've been in the medical field, I think. Yeah, because my mom's a nurse. And she's one of the most kindest, caring people I know. And so, I would probably want to do something in that realm. Yeah, I don't know. Or maybe I'll be a teacher. Maybe I would teach music. 

Media question: Do you feel like this experience is going to impact your music?

Oh, absolutely. I think it's kind of reigniting me. Just as much as it matters to them, that people like me come, it matters more to me, because it gives me purpose, and it makes me feel like, "Oh, OK, I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be." Because you're all standing here in front of me, asking me questions, and you care about what I have to say. So, it makes me feel good.

Media question: As someone who wears so many hats... you know, singer, songwriter, actor... What do you say to Dreamers who maybe don't know exactly what they want to do yet, but have multiple interests?

Man, it's important to nurture them all. Some people think like, oh, you got to focus on one thing, or think you have to kind of take it day by day, and figure out the bigger picture. I think when I first graduated high school, and I was trying to figure out, "Okay, am I going to do music 100%? Am I going to go to school and do music?", I knew in my spirit that I had to do this music thing 100%, and put in the 10,000 hours. And it gave me the platform to do other things. So, that's one way to go about it. But you got to just get to know yourself and see what works for you.

Media question: Where do you see yourself being in the next five years?

Man, this is the year of planning, I guess. But, I was on tour with Coldplay last year, and I got to experience being in stadiums. So that's kind of been more so a five to 10-year plan. But stadiums are something I really want to do. And, of course, more movies and releasing music. But yeah, just keep going.

Media question: I always say you have to walk through the field of fear to get to faith on the other side. And one of the Dreamers, she said that she had a fear of singing, and she sang today. What would you say to other Dreamers who are walking through that field of fear to get to the faith on the other side?

Oh my gosh, that's amazing. I mean, you have to think, what's the worst thing that could happen? It's like, bet on yourself. Because you just... No risk, no reward. You know, you have to believe in yourself, and you have to take those steps. You will surprise yourself. And the result, or the consequence, that you think, is usually not even close to as bad as you think it is. So bet on yourself. 

Media question: I want to ask you about hip-hop. What artists or rapper do you relate to the most?

Relate to? Ooh. I don't know who I relate to the most. But I think one of my favorite rappers of all time is Q-Tip, because I actually got to meet him one time, and he put me onto so much music. And I didn't realize how much music he was inspired by, outside of hip-hop. But he, to me, just focused on having fun with the music and making people feel something, without really trying. Just kind of being him. So yeah, that's why.

Media question: Between writing, performing, and composing, which one is your favorite process?

Ooh, that's a tough one. So, I think my favorite process, because I just love live performance, is the rehearsal and just composing and arranging music for a show. That's my favorite thing to do lately.

Media question: My question for you is, when it comes to your dreams, you sometimes go through imposter syndrome. So what do you say to the kids that, even though they're going after their dream, they might hit that point of feeling like an imposter in that space? How can they navigate that?

Man, honestly, I keep saying it, but it's just looking at that bigger picture. And, honestly, just trying to push through that feeling, and do little things every single day to contribute to that bigger picture. And also, take a moment. And just finding that balance. But being patient with yourself, really.

Media question: You were looking at your younger self right now, and you had to say something to your younger self, what would you say to her?

Ooh, if I could talk to my younger self, there are a lot of things I would say. I think, lately, the thing I would say is to focus on how things feel, and not what they look like, and what makes sense for you. And yeah... Let your voice be louder within yourself. Yeah.

PC: How was filming The Color Purple?

Oh my gosh. The Color Purple was amazing. I can't wait for you guys to see it. Can't wait for you guys to see it.