Auli'i Cravalho Says Parents Recognize Her as Moana More Often Than Kids: 'It's a Blow to My Heart'

"Whenever I am recognized, it's really neat," Auliʻi Cravalho tells PEOPLE while speaking about her new partnership with King Hawaiian

Auliʻi Cravalho, Moana
Photo: Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic; Shutterstock

Even as a voice actor, Auliʻi Cravalho says she still gets recognized while out in public for her career-defining role as Moana.

But as the 19-year-old actress tells PEOPLE, her fans aren't the age she was expecting.

"It's really funny, actually. A lot of parents recognize me as Moana and then kids will be like, 'I'm sorry, do you see this girl? She does not look like her.' And I'm like, 'I get it. I really do. It's a blow to my heart, but also I feel you, kid,'" Cravalho says. "So yeah, whenever I am recognized, it's really neat."

And while she does enjoy the occasional run-in, the star admits that wearing a protective face mask amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has helped keep her incognito — and made finishing her errands much easier!

"Actually while I'm here, living in L.A., wearing a mask kind of keeps me protected in the grocery store and I can finally buy soup without a kid being like, 'Are you Moana?' And then I have to sing, 'I am Moana.' You know, it just makes the trip a little bit shorter," she laughs.

Now, Cravalho may also be recognized for the titular role in her first live-action film, All Together Now. In the Netflix drama, she plays Amber, an optimistic and talented teen who overcomes homelessness and family tragedy by learning to accept that she doesn't have to do it all alone.

"All Together Now was my first live-action film, which was very exciting, but also very nerve wracking," she says. "I worked really intimately with my director to figure out who my character was and who Amber is — and I think she really represented a lot of hope and a real drive... I think Amber really proves that your circumstance doesn't take away from your future and how bright it is."

Reflecting on the two different films and characters, Cravalho tells PEOPLE that she feels "so blessed to have been able to play strong leading women who pushed the boundaries of a lot of situations and stay true to themselves."

Auli'i Cravalho
Auli'i Cravalho. Rachel Murray/Getty

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And in keeping true to herself and her passion for giving back, Cravalho recently partnered with King's Hawaiian for its 70th anniversary to help raise money for No Kid Hungry through a program that will help "provide up to half a million meals to kids in need."

"I grew up in Hawaii and King's Hawaiian bread was always a treat for my family growing up," she says. "I am really excited to celebrate their 70th anniversary and truly their tradition of giving back through 'A (French) Toast to Breakfast,' special program with No Kid Hungry."

"I love that anyone can help make a difference by hosting their own French Toast fundraiser in their hometown. The bake sale proceeds go even further than No Kid Hungry because King's Hawaiian is matching all donations up to $25,000 [from] bake sale participants between November 16th and November 23rd," Cravalho added. "It truly hits close to home for me, obviously growing up in Hawaii, and it's such a beautiful foundation, No Kid Hungry, that I'm really proud to take part of it."

Cravalho herself plans to experiment with some fun King's Hawaiian recipes, including an Apple Crumble French Toast Cup and a Coconut French Toast with Caramelized Pineapples.

"It doesn't really feel like fall in Los Angeles, but I'm ready for some delicious french toast cups. Like that just sounds warm and inviting to me," she says.

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