Date of Birth: November 22, 2000
Born in Oahu, Hawaii, Auli'i is of Native Hawaiian and Portuguese descent, and lives with her mother, Puanani. She began singing when she was a child, earning a regular spot as a soprano in her school's glee club.
When she was just a freshman in high school in the small town of Mililani, Hawaii, she landed the lead opposite Dwayne Johnson in the Disney animated flick Moana (2016) — her very first film role. In an interview with PEOPLE, the talented teen admitted that she initially didn't want to audition because "there were already so many great submissions over YouTube."
However, she decided to audition anyway after an Oahu casting agent spotted her at a charity competition and encouraged her try out. According to casting agent Rachel Sutton, hundreds of Polynesian woman auditioned for the role, and Auli'i was the very last.
"She has a playful, mischievous wit," Musker elaborated in a statement. "She can project vulnerability, she doesn't seem intimidated at all by the challenges ahead, and her Polynesian background has helped shape her connection to family, hard work, and music. These are all qualities she shares with Moana."
After earning the role of the adventurous Hawaiian princess, Auli'i told PEOPLE that it was a literal dream come true: "From baby time to now, I wanted to be a Disney princess and then I wanted to be a singer or an actress."
Of her character, Auli'i said, "Moana is such an amazing character. She's brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she's not afraid to get it, and I think that's something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way."