‘Moana’ Actress Makes Surprising Statement About Her “Financial Security”

moana and auli'i cravalho smiling

A lot of Disney princess fans might think that they already know everything there is to know about the starlet who played Moana — but in a recent interview with The Cut, the young Hawaiian actress revealed a surprisingly challenging home life that (in her mind) makes her less of a Disney princess.

The Power, Crush, Rise, and Mean Girls actress (not to mention the live-action Moana executive producer) became famous at just 14 years old when she was cast in the role of Moana, the plucky Polynesian princess who travels with the demigod Maui to restore the heart of Te Fiti and save the ocean (as well as her home island, Motonui).


Maui, Moana, HeiHei the chicken, and Pua the pig. Credit: Disney

Fame at such a young age could certainly be a huge shock — and as one Disney Channel star confirmed, it’s a legitimate trauma for children — but one aspect of Auli’i Cravalho’s big break was an even more tremendous change!

Auli’i already identified with her Disney princess character Moana, saying in the interview that “she was basically me” and pointing out their similar backgrounds (a tight-knit family unit that comes from a long line of ancestors who have almost always lived on the same island “with Hawaiian and Polynesian values”). 

However, becoming the lead actress in a Disney film also meant making a distinct change in Auli’i’s personal life.

Auli'i Cravalho

Credit: Auli’i Cravalho Instagram

Auli’i explained in the interview that she had lived a cash-strapped life back in Hawai’i with her mother (who made sure that her daughter enjoyed plenty of extracurricular activities despite their circumstances, ranging from artistic pursuits like piano and singing to more physically-demanding endeavors like horseback riding, swimming, and aikido).

Auli’i expressed some inner conflict about whether or not she should change careers, partly because she wants to be sure that she’s “making an impact in real life” and effecting fundamental changes that help the world, but also because she knows that she and her mother’s shift away from poverty would not have come about without her acting career.

“Without working in film, I wouldn’t have been able to let my mom retire,” Auli’i declared. “I have never encountered this kind of financial security before. And I would be stupid to give it up.” 

Many other celebrities have also used their earnings from films to support their loved ones by buying houses for them or allowing them to retire, but hearing that an actress was able to bring her mom into retirement before she herself was even 25 years old is particularly inspiring!

The Little Mermaid Live

Auli’i Cravalho also played Ariel the little mermaid in ‘The Little Mermaid Live’. Credit: Disney

Fame might come with a lot of glamour, but Auli’i was insistent in the interview that she still “[doesn’t] forget coming from a single-parent household, growing up in Hawaii on EBT.”

“That’s real. I am not, in real life, a Disney princess,” the actress and singer added. 


Maui, Moana, HeiHei the chicken, and Pua the pig. Credit: Disney

Auli’i Cravalho might think that the financial struggles from her childhood make her less of a Disney princess, but many Disney princess and Disney movie fans will actually see her and her mother’s past as a factor that actually makes her an even more authentic Disney princess in real life (since Disney princesses often encounter obstacles in their youth, form a tight bond with one family member or friend, and experience some sort of rags-to-riches transformation)!

Did you know this poignant story about Auli’i’s Moana-driven ability to support her mother financially?

About Sharon

Sharon is a writer and animal lover from New England. Sharon's two main focuses in her work are Disney's correlations with pop culture and the significance of Disney princesses (which was the basis for her college thesis). When she's not writing about Disney, Sharon spends her time singing, dancing, and cavorting with woodland creatures!

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