Auli’i Cravalho, from aquatic to iconic

Auli’i Cravalho was only 14 when she began recording for her breakout role in Disney’s Moana. The Hawaii-born actress captured the attention and adoration of people everywhere as the ocean-bound princess, with the 2016 animated film grossing more than $680 million at the global box office. Since then, Cravalho has led a busy career that allows her to embrace and intertwine both her musical and acting abilities in her work.

Cravalho transitioned from voicing animated projects to her first on-screen role in 2018 for the NBC teen drama series Rise, which followed a high school drama theater program under direction from a new teacher. Cravalho’s latest TV gig was starring in the science fiction Prime Video series The Power, a show about teenage girls suddenly gaining supernatural abilities. 

The actress casually came out in 2020 on TikTok by lip syncing to lyrics from Eminem’s “Those Kinda Nights”: “How you doin’? You straight? She said, ‘No, I’m bi.’” Although the announcement was news to fans of Cravalho, to her it wasn’t such a big deal. 

“It wasn’t even meant to be a coming out,” Cravalho said in an interview with Character Media. “I’ve been bi for a really long time. Thankfully, the reaction was very positive.”

The TikTok ended up being how her parents found out about her sexuality. Cravalho notes that her coming out was met by support across the internet, crediting the “gays and girlies” for her warm embrace into the queer community.

Two years after her public announcement, Cravalho had the opportunity to play a queer character in the Hulu romantic comedy Crush. Cravalho was able to draw from her own sexuality for the role, a tomboyish bisexual named AJ, while also learning some new skills like skateboarding. 

In an interview with IndieWire, Cravalho spoke to the importance of queer characters being played by queer actors. “If it was our first time kissing girls on screen, it probably wouldn’t have worked out,” she said of herself and co-star Rowan Blanchard. “It would’ve been a completely different film if one of us wasn’t queer, and hadn’t had the experience of kissing another girl before.”

Cravalho’s career intersected with her queer identity again for this year’s musical Mean Girls remake, which put her singing and acting abilities on full display in the role of outcast Janis Imi’ike. Her show-stopping performance of “I’d Rather Be Me” was one of the movie’s standout moments, proving there’s a place for Cravalho on Broadway, if she’s ever so inclined.

Cravalho’s career has expanded tenfold since her acting debut in 2016, but her career with Disney continues for Moana 2, which will be released in theaters in November 2024. Reprising the role that thrust her into the spotlight, Cravalho will continue being a queer icon while reminding everyone of her princess status.

Don't forget to share:

Discover more

Read More in 25 Under 25
The Latest on INTO