She may be known as the voice of “Moana,” but Auli’i Cravalho has a powerful voice of her own. The actress will soon star opposite Rowan Blanchard as an unassuming skater tomboy in “Crush,” an adorable queer teen rom-com coming out on Hulu next week. Complete with raunchy humor and queer actors in all the lead roles, “Crush” is just one example of a marked shift in the way mainstream studios approach LGBTQ love stories. With Disney, which owns a majority stake in Hulu and produced “Moana,” under fire in the wake of its tepid response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Cravalho understands that representation only goes so far.
“Representation is important. And I truly believe that putting your money where your mouth is important as well. And to speak directly about the Disney of it all, to have the individuals stand up against a corporation is what needed to happen, unfortunately,” the actress told IndieWire said during a recent interview.
In late March, Disney faced sharp backlash after it was revealed that the conglomerate had funded backers of the arcane Florida law, including governor Ron DeSantis. After the company issued a statement condemning the law, DeSantis has since sought to dissolve Disney’s special self-governing status in Florida. Amid all this, it was revealed that Pixar received pressure to cut a same-sex kiss from its upcoming “Lightyear” movie, which has since been reinstated, and that the studio cut a gay reference in the latest “Fantastic Beasts” film for its Chinese release.
“We know that representation is important, [but] real life is bills and laws being pushed forward by lawmakers that are directly funded by corporations. It’s important that they be on the right side of history and listen,” said Cravalho. “Instead of trying to play the safe role and take a step back, take a step forward. Step up. Step up and say what’s right and what’s wrong. And say ‘gay’ for god’s sakes, people are gay. People are gay. If you didn’t know by now, now you know.”
It turns out Cravalho has more in common with her breakout role than one might think. While Moana was fearless in setting sail to save her village from a blight, Cravalho isn’t afraid to speak truth to power in the face of a blight of empathy.
“Films are meant to be fun and they’re also meant to tell a story. But when real life is being affected so negatively, it is important that the corporations behind the films that have the power, that have the money, truly help the communities,” she said. “Because I am bisexual, and there are only words that I can speak in support of trans lives and people of color. And I can put my money where my mouth is as well, but corporations truly have the most impact right now.”
Audiences will get to see a new side of Cravalho in a much more understated role that includes no singing when she steps out in “Crush,” which premieres April 29 on Hulu.