Moana star Auli'i Cravalho reflects on coming out one year ago: 'It is so joyful'
The star of Disney's Moana proved how far she'll go to be her authentic self, and is focused now on joy and inclusion.
"I came out on TikTok ," Auli'i Cravalho says with a laugh. The Moana star is reflecting on her debut video on the platform, posted in April 2020, in which she declared her bisexuality while lip-synching to an Eminem track. Speaking to EW on Zoom a year later, the actress admits she didn't anticipate that the TikTok would result in dramatic "Moana is bi" headlines splashed all over the news and social media.
Back then, things were a lot more casual behind the scenes. Cravalho just wanted something to do at 3 a.m., an impulse that so many others likely felt in 2020.
"The funniest part to me was that I had girlfriends in high school," the 20-year-old says from London, where she's working on her upcoming Amazon Prime Video series The Power. "I think girls are great, but I wouldn't think that it was necessary to come out."
Cravalho is thoughtful, even self-deprecating, when talking about her sexuality, though she says she wasn't sure how the public would receive her late-night announcement. So it was a pleasant relief that so many embraced her. "The fans are only too happy to accept another gay," she quips.
She even received messages from people she "hadn't talked to in a long time, like, 'Wow, that's really great. I wouldn't have the confidence to come out like you did in a TikTok, but hey, way to be real Gen-Z about it and push forward into the future.'"
Cravalho is thrilled that sharing her truth resonated with so many, but she's also refreshingly honest about how much she has to learn about other identities on the LGBTQ spectrum. She's not about to flex activist creds any time soon.
"I still sometimes slip up even with my friends, of integrating 'they/them' into sentences, because I'm so used to this binary of 'he or she,'" Cravalho says. "I'm glad that these terms are being used in film, because that's just going to help me and help others use it in their daily lives.
"My soul needs to grow as well," she says, adding that she's considering taking a professional break to attend college.
Being at the intersection of different identities in Hollywood can feel like "floating in gray matter," Cravalho admits. The native Hawaiian says that "more than once" she has experienced being pigeonholed and portrayed as the "racially ambiguous, Latin-esque girl who can sing and sings her way out of poverty."
To have more control of the opportunities she gets, Cravalho wants to create for herself. She's working on scripts with her best friend and would love to direct and eventually reconnect with Moana's Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (who wrote an early version of the film's script), though she humbly notes that she's willing to "put out two or three short films and fail" before she's ready to "hit them up."
"I know that it will change and it is changing. And we're learning to love our features and our voices in their diversity, but it's also for me, at least as a young woman, I also am trying to not make waves still," Cravalho admits. "I'm still trying to hold myself as what I think is appropriate. And I'm like, 'Oh boy, if we all just relaxed into it, I wonder how I would act differently. What roles I would get if I relaxed into my fullest state, which I'm not sure what it is yet.'"
But she's hopeful: She recently started getting roles that are written as gay or bisexual, which she says is encouraging. As are shows like Sex Education, Euphoria, and Genera+ion, which understand what it's like to be young and queer, and beyond.
"I'm like, 'Oh, finally, this next generation is going to be so much more inclusive,'" Cravalho says. "If you're playing someone who is part of the LGBTQ spectrum, that isn't just the story line. There's so much more to them. We are straight-A students. We are avid readers. We have these wild imaginations. We don't know what the heck we're doing, but also don't just show us in the light of 'My sexuality is this burden,' because it's not. It is so joyful."