Bruno Mars’ racial ambiguity often left people puzzled as they struggled to pinpoint where exactly he comes from. Does the “Uptown Funk” singer actually hail from the Philippines?
Bruno Mars is Filipino from his mother’s side. She emigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii as a child but also had some Spanish ancestry. The Grammy-winning singer also has Puerto Rican, Ukrainian, and Hungarian roots from his father’s side.
Stick around to learn more about Bruno Mars’ unique ethnic background and relationship with his late mother.
Bruno Mars’ Family History
Peter Gene Hernandez, better known as Bruno Mars, was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. This led some people to believe that he’s a Native Hawaiian, but his ethnic background is much more complicated.
The singer’s father Peter Hernandez is half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish, with ancestors hailing from Ukraine and Hungary. His mother Bernadette San Pedro Bayot was born in the Philippines but moved to Hawaii as a child. She also had some Spanish ancestry.
The singer’s father played percussion in his youth, while his mother was a hula dancer. They met while performing in the same show, and later formed a family band The Love Notes. Little Bruno was also a part of this group and often appeared on stage as Elvis impersonator.
Mars’ parents are the reason why he fell in love with music in the first place. He spent his childhood surrounded by people who sang and played instruments and quickly became one of them. After years of performing in Hawaii, he decided to move to Los Angeles following his high school graduation, in the hope he’ll be able to reach a larger audience.
The Grammy-winning singer discussed his multiracial roots with Latina Magazine and admitted that record label executives didn’t know what to make of him because of it.
“There are a lot of people who have this mixed background that are in this gray zone. A lot of people think, ‘This is awesome. You’re in this gray zone, so you can pass for whatever the hell you want.’ But it’s not like that at all. It’s actually the exact opposite,” said Mars.
Losing His Mother
Bruno Mars was 12 when his parents decided to split up, and their musical act The Love Notes fell apart after their divorce. The singer stayed with his father, who no longer had a steady source of income, and they were practically homeless for some time.
Despite their split, Bruno’s relationship with his mother stayed rock solid, and his success made her extremely proud. She would call or text him after each performance to congratulate him and remind him he should get some rest.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t around for long enough to witness some of the biggest successes of his career. She had suffered a brain aneurysm in 2013, and he never fully recovered from losing her.
“To this day, I don’t know how to handle it. That piece of your heart is just gone forever. I don’t even know how to talk about it… I was in shambles. I didn’t know what to do. There’s nothing you can do. You just ball up and bawl your eyes out every day,” Mars told Rolling Stones.
The first song that he ever wrote was dedicated to his mother, and Bruno shared it with her on her birthday or Mother’s Day. He was only four at the time and said she “played that song forever” after he gave her a cassette with the recording.
Music has always been a huge part of the singer’s life, but Bruno told Latina Magazine that he would give it up in a heartbeat if it meant he could have his mom back.
Mars dedicated his first Grammy to his mother and honored her by playing a drum set with her name during his Super Bowl halftime show in 2014. He also established a Grammy Camp scholarship for Hawaii-based students in her honor.