Sixteen-year-old Auli'i Cravalho made her Hot 100 debut for "How Far I'll Go," the anthemic and inspiring song from Disney's Moana, which was written by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. The song, which peaked at No. 41, has continued to hold its ground on the Hot 100 for 16 weeks.
Since the film premiered in November, Cravalho has left her her home of Hawaii in support of the film; she has since performed at the Oscars and is now filming a pilot for an upcoming NBC show, Drama High. The teen spoke with Billboard about Moana's universality, how her friends are reacting to her success and more.
Why do you think this song has continued to resonate long after Moana left theaters?
Moana has connected with so many individuals through its characters and message, and the music is no different. The song comes from a place of "what if." We all have that drive, that quiet voice inside telling you to go for it. It's a universal message that everyone can relate to.
How does it feel to be so young and so well-known?
It is so interesting. I'm very young, and already have a lot of Instagram followers. I now have an audience that I'm so honored I get to speak to, to encourage and to share in this amazing journey that I'm on.
How have your friends reacted to your success so far?
My best friend Lauren, I think her screams have gotten softer and softer. She said to me, "Eventually I'll stop screaming for you and we can have a normal conversation when you tell me exciting things that are happening to you." But when she found out I was Moana, the screams were off-the-charts. She's so excited for me, but slowly I think she's starting to save her vocal chords, which is good for her, as well as for me.
You've been traveling a lot in support of "How Far I'll Go." What's something that has surprised you about a new city?
The differences in the people, cultures and foods. My stomach has not been able to keep up with all the different foods I've been trying in New York. And I just learned about Postmates -- people will deliver food right to you! That was the No. 1 thing for me. New York is doing it right.
What do you miss most about your native Hawaii?
Aside from my friends and family, my cat. I have been away from her for a month-and-a-half, and I'm wondering if she'll remember me. Her name is Chin Chin, because she has a double chin. What if she lost weight? Will I need to rename her?
What is the best advice you've gotten about how to stay grounded in this industry?
I'm so grateful for every single experience, however, they happen so quickly, one after another. I think to really stay humbled and grounded, what I've learned from my mom and others, is to not forget these experiences. I've tried to start journaling, because I want these memories to last a lifetime.
This article originally appeared in the April 15 issue of Billboard.