Singer Bruno Mars, born Peter Hernandez, has been the subject of rumors that he took his stage name because he’s not proud of his Puerto Rican heritage – but he’s setting the record straight. In a new interview with Latina magazine, he gets candid about what it’s been like growing up with multiple identities and the realities of being Latino.
“Growing up in Hawaii, there are not too many Puerto Ricans there,” Bruno said in the interview. “Because of my hair, they thought I was black and white.”
The 31-year-old is completely owning his legal name, Peter Hernandez, and his Puerto Rican heritage.
He says the insinuation that he changed his last name is insulting to him, especially considering he was named after his father.
“My last name is Hernandez,” the singer said. “My father’s name is Pedrito Hernandez, and he’s a Puerto Rican pimp. There’s no denying that. My dad nicknamed me Bruno since I was 2 years old. The real story is: I was going to go by ‘Bruno,’ one name. Mars just kind of came [through] joking around because that sounds bigger than life. That was it, simple as that.” His dad was a pimp… Say what? Well, he definitely had style.
As you can see, Bruno resembles his dad a lot. He said his dad’s style and demeanor totally influenced him. That Latino flashy-yet-smooth aesthetic is very apparent in Bruno’s “24K Magic” video.
“He’s an old-school working musician, so that’s where the pinky rings come from, the patent-leather shoes, the suits, and the pompadour,” Mars said. “It all stems from watching my father. I remember at the time, me and my sisters would be a little embarrassed when he would take us to school in his big-ass Cadillac. No one had Cadillacs in Hawaii. But my dad would show up in some boat-looking Caddy wearing some silky shit, and we’d run out into the car as soon as possible. And here I am wearing the swap-meet gold, driving Cadillacs.” Swap-meet gold!? We love that!!
Growing up with a Puerto Rican/Jewish dad and a Filipino/Spanish mom, Bruno said his identity, although blurry at times, has always been intact. He’s now hoping to inspire others to own all of their racial and ethnic identities.
“There are a lot of people who have this mixed background that are in this gray zone,” Bruno said. “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.”
Bruno said that the universal sound in his music, which is influenced by Latin, soul, and hip-hop, is a reflection of his hope that people can relate to one another through their individual experiences.
“I hope people of color can look at me, and they know that everything they’re going through, I went through. I promise you.”
Bruno said that his music isn’t aimed at one kind of demographic. “How are you going to tell me that this song that I’m writing is only going to be catered to Puerto Ricans or to white people or only Asian people?” Mars said. “How are you going to tell me that? My music is for anybody who wants to listen to it.”