Incredible Women

A Letter To My Future Self: Actor And Singer Auli’i Cravalho

In this series of Incredible Women essays, inspiring voices making a mark on the world share a letter to themselves in the future. First is AULI’I CRAVALHO, the actor and singer who made her debut voicing Disney’s Moana, and is soon to be seen in the screen adaptation of The Power. She asks her older self to remember the setbacks, the joy of being in love at 22, and how she is keeping Pasifika culture alive…

Auli’i Cravalho

Dear Auli’i,

Hi, it’s me, from the past. I’m seven tattoos and 22 years old at the moment. I’m thinking you’ll be in your early forties when you check back in on this letter again. It feels pretty egotistical to write, and, on the other hand, really enlightening. We were so depressed as a teen, we didn’t imagine making it even this far; what could another 20 years possibly hold? This serves as a way to ask myself if I’ve been paying attention to the details, and where my priorities and hopes are for the future. Christ. Here goes nothing…

I’m on the incredi-coaster. Some days I am on the highest of highs, huffing chocolate-chip cookies, and, other days, I liiiterally want to jump right off

Right now, I’m on the incredi-coaster. Some days I am on the highest of highs, huffing chocolate-chip cookies, and, other days, I liiiterally want to jump right off. My worth is tied so tightly to my career. I ask myself whether being so self-aware isn’t both the blessing of my craft and the curse of growing up too quickly; a direct product of worrying what to do with my hands on stage, or what the posture of my shoulders reveals about my character. It’s a double-edged sword, having curated a career so early. And profiting off creativity and art cheapens what I used to feel at home in. Being an only child meant I talked to myself and kissed mirrors and put on fashion shows and wrote songs and re-enacted books… I played pretend because there was nothing better to do, but also simply because it kept me company. Now, playing pretend has gotten so serious.

When you read this, I want you to try and remember a few things. I want you to remember the warm walls of your childhood home – the sunlight peeking through the cracks in the boards. I want you to remember reading books in the avocado tree you named Francine, the smell of oranges outside your bedroom window, the overflowing macadamia-nut grove, and pulling weeds out of the rock garden on Saturdays. I don’t want you to forget how Papa used to cut apples from his reclining chair with his sharpened paring knife, efficiently peeling the skin from the soft flesh – one piece for me, one for him. It’s already at the haziest edges of my memory. Remember that your neighbors thought you were a badass when you painted the front door of your apartment bright bubblegum pink! And how it fills you with delight to make a house a home.

I also want you to remember the hard things. Talking to your dad feels like pulling teeth. Yours and his. Remember how it feels every time you leave and long for Hawai’i, the place where your identity is rooted. The only place you really call home. I want you to remember the rejections (I got so close!), lost friendships (nothing changes if nothing changes), bruised shins (you have ADHD) and bruised ego (I seldom watch the things I don’t get cast in). Remember how it felt like you were dying after you broke up with your first roommate? How, for years after, you tried to big-spoon your way into proving partners could, and should, stay? Do you remember the in-clinic procedure? The weeks of tension, the sterile bedside manner, the efficiency, and the immediate sobbing relief. Do you remember calling Addie? They made you laugh. Remember how your love hugged you right outside the waiting room, protective against the wandering eyes? I was embarrassed; they were not. Do you still have that lingering cramp when you sneeze?

There are so many things I hope you accomplish. I’m almost scared to say them aloud for fear of juju. The most important being: I really hope you’ve shaved your head at least once. I hope you’ve the space to stop worrying about your parents. And I hope you haven’t let work consume every part of you. I’ll be honest: at 22, you are in love. Love love. They hold and cherish you in a way that lets your guard down and scares the ever-loving shit out of you. I hope you still love this way. I hope you read to your heart’s content: fiction novels and biographies and manga and ʻŌlelo Noʻeau. I hope you write stories; your story. And realize that by simply being, you’re keeping Pasifika culture alive.

Téa Obreht (my favorite author, in case you forgot) wrote: “Come on, is your heart a sponge or a fist?” I like to keep the question in the back of my mind. You should read The Tiger’s Wife again and see what you think. I love it for the imagery. When you read it, you might connect more to the themes of loss, though I hope not. My greatest skill has always been my ability to adapt, so I believe myself to be more sponge than fist. For better or worse, I absorb all I possibly can – criticism, critique and praise. I selfishly hope one day your heart is more fist.

I’m so proud you’ve made it this far, future me. Let’s see how far you’ll go.

With love and admiration,


The Power is on Prime Video from March 31