Meet Auli'i Cravalho, The Voice Of Disney's New Heroine Moana

Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
This month, many 15-year-olds are just getting in the back-to-school swing of things. But Auli'i Cravalho's schedule is a little bit different: The teen is traveling around the world, from her native Hawaii all the way to places like Nova Scotia and New York — where she visited our Refinery29 studio to talk about the upcoming Disney film Moana.

Cravalho is the voice of Moana, Disney's first Polynesian character, who will meet audiences everywhere November 23. "Moana is definitely a heroine, and she's strong and she's beautiful," Cravalho says. "She's super-cool. I totally relate to her. I think everyone else will, too!"

The actress's voice has already been heard by nearly nine million people just in the trailer alone, so it's hard to believe this is her first-ever role. "Unless you count backyard plays and things that I put on for my mom in my living room!" she told us. But after Disney searched through hundreds of girls in the Pacific Islands, Cravalho snagged the part in 2015 with her bubbly personality and renditions of Disney and Polynesian songs. Between classes and homework (and surfing for fun!), she worked with a vocal coach via Skype to get the music part down.

Her first time seeing herself on-screen as Moana was, understandably, surreal. "I could see my face, and I could see bits of my smile," she says. "When she touches her hair when she's kind of nervous, I can see that, too... She's very go get 'em. She has a very strong attitude, in a very good way, by the way, so when Maui decides to push back, she pushes back a little more."

Maui? That's Moana's partner in crime, played by Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock. While the duo didn't work together in-studio, Cravalho says she fangirled out when she did actually meet the actor. "He's really sweet. With all of his success, he still remains very humble. He's a kind person all around. I couldn't think of anyone better to play Maui."

But don't get it twisted: Maui is not Moana's love interest. In fact, she's the first Disney heroine to not have a romantic storyline. "This story isn't about finding someone," Cravalho says. "It's about finding yourself."

A Disney movie that empowers young women and sends the message to young girls that they don't need a Prince Charming? YAS! But there's an even bigger element to the film that Cravalho is excited about. "Polynesia and Polynesians are certainly a minority," she says. "The fact that Disney has shown some wonderful lights on the Polynesian culture...it's wonderful to see our culture really highlighted in that way. It's an honor."

Watch more from the wise-beyond-her-years Cravalho — including more about her life back home in Hawaii, her favorite Disney movie, and a fun game of 10, 9, 8 — in our video below.
Advertisement