This Thanksgiving, Disney is releasing its newest film, and introducing its newest princess. For the first time, Disney will star a Polynesian girl as its protagonist. She is the daughter of the island’s ruler, Chief Tui, who orders that no one is to sail beyond the reef. However, like so many rebellious daughters and princesses before her in the world of Disney, Moana ignores him and sets sail for a fabled island. The legendary demi-god Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, accompanies her on the adventure.
It goes without saying that Moana is beautiful; all the Disney princesses are. But Moana does not look like any of them. She has olive skin, long wavy brown hair, and a wide face with big round chocolate eyes. She is pretty in a very earthy, natural way. Her signature outfit is a red tapa, a textile made from a mulberry tree, and her skirt is made from pandanas; it is an outfit that is functional for running and swimming, and consists of items that would naturally be found on Motunau Island 2000 years ago. She wears an abalone shell that is actually a mollusk around her neck, and it is a metaphor for Moana’s story; it is a juxtaposition between land and sea. Like her necklace, Moana’s passion is a mixture of both. So the jewelry reflects the story that is being told.
Her unique beauty is surprisingly paralleled in the Hollywood world by a number of actresses who share her coloring, facial features, and overall look. Some are closer lookalikes than others, but all of the 15 women on this list embody Princess Moana in one way or another. Read on to see who these modern ladies who could just as easily be island princesses are.
15. Vanessa Hudgens
Vanessa Hudgens has that good-girl, pretty face that would make her perfect to play any Disney princess, but I think that her skin tone, hair, and sweetly expressive features would make her a perfect Princess Moana, specifically. She also has a great voice, which is a must for any Disney royalty since they all sing in their respective movies. The actress who largely started her career with the High School Musical movies is of Chinese, Spanish, Irish, American Indian, and Filipino ancestries, and combined together, she easily looks like she could be from Moana’s island somewhere in the Pacific. However, as great a match as she is to Moana for her looks and her singing voice, Vanessa’s image may be a little too scandalous; she took nude photos, which turned into a full-blown scandal, and also has said that she has always wanted to play a prostitute, which is of course a far cry from Disney’s squeaky clean image.
14. Shay Mitchell
This Pretty Little Liar could just as easily be a Pretty Little Polynesian Princess. Meaning, she looks just like Moana (and all of the other girls on this list) with tan skin, dark brown hair, and a wide face that is so fresh and smooth it could be the face of Clean and Clear. Shay looks especially island-y in this photo because of her earthy but brightly-colored swimsuit, short-short cut-offs, and windswept hair. Her makeup is natural instead of dramatic. She looks like she is ready to head for a day at the beach, which is, of course, where Moana lives. Shay is a beautiful blend of Irish, Scottish, Filipina, and Spanish, which creates a look that could definitely be Polynesian. Plus, the Canadian native even spent time in Hong Kong and Thailand; it is not the south Pacific, but it is arguably closer to the climate and culture than Canada or the U.S. So she is a perfect choice!
13. Eiza Gonzalez
Eiza Gonzalez is from Mexico City, Mexico, and is known for her roles in From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, Jem and the Holograms, and a slew of Mexican shows and movies. However, if there is ever a live-action film made of Moana, Eiza would be an awesome choice to play the princess. Just look at her; Eiza and Moana could practically be sisters, with their matching skin tone, big brown eyes, and long, flowy, sun-tinted brown hair. And in this picture at least, Eiza looks tropical in a flowery sundress and colorful earrings. They are a perfect fit. The 26-year-old Eiza is multilingual, fluent in Spanish, English, and Italian. She is also a singer, and in 2008 was chosen as the face of Avon in Mexico. She filmed skincare commercials and was a brand ambassador for Neutrogena.
12. Sarah Hyland
It is time to see this familiar face in a new light, that of an island princess. It is not a stretch of the imagination to picture the ditzy Dunphy daughter from Modern Family as Princess Moana instead. In fact, it is easy to. Take this photo, for example; bronzed by the sun and not so heavily made up, Sarah looks relaxed and almost not like herself, at all. She looks much more like a laid-back island girl than she does a whimsical fluffhead, which is what her Modern Family character Haley Dunphy often is. Sarah has her gorgeous mix of English, German, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, and Welsh ancestries to thank for her beautiful complexion, which is one reason she scored a spot on this list. The others? Well, her petite frame, large cocoa-colored eyes, long brown hair, and her skin’s natural glow all help with the physical aspect. However, personality-wise, she calls herself a “glam-a-holic”, and I am not sure that is quite in line with Moana’s nature.
11. Becky G.
The actress who will soon appear in the highly-anticipated Power Rangers movie as Yellow Power Ranger Trini, would also be a great choice to play Moana, should there ever be a live-action version. Having also acted in smaller roles in the television series Empire, the movie House of Sin, and a few other things, 19-year-old Rebecca Marie Gomez (who’s stage name is Becky G.) is of Mexican descent. Her ethnicity and her baby face both lead her to be a pick for Moana, and she certainly looks the part. With how beautiful she is, it is shocking that she had to be home schooled due to bullying, which was unfortunately not her only struggle. She was discovered on YouTube after her family lost their home due to financial difficulties. Living in her grandparents’ garage, she posted videos of herself dancing to YouTube, and the rest was history. Like Vanessa Hudgens (and like Moana, herself), Becky is a great singer. She has released several singles.
10. Alice Greczyn
Sharing the same overall physicality with all the others on this list, next up we have The Lying Game actress Alice Greczyn. She is also known for The Young and the Restless, Make It or Break It, Privileged, Lincoln Heights, and numerous other films and television shows. However, it seems as if she has never played an island princess, even though she most certainly should! She just has that je ne sais quoi, and the exact right look for it. Moana would be the perfect role for her in this aspect. Alice turned 30 this year, but she sure as hell doesn’t look it, and her fresh face could easily be Moana’s. Alice hails from the Midwest, and although being an actress had never even crossed her mind (she had hoped to be a figure-skater, a nurse, or a paramedic), her path was diverted when she was approached by a talent agent. Since she spends most of her time off traveling (she has even been to Mongolia!) and her passion is exploring other cultures, not only are her looks similar to Moana’s; her values are, too.
9. Isabela Moner
Cleveland native and Growing Up Fisher star Isabella Moner is our next choice of Moana lookalikes. And she is an obvious one. She is of Peruvian descent, and besides acting, she also does voice-over work, and is a singer/songwriter, dancer, and ukulele player. This last fact is interesting not only because who the hell plays the ukulele, but also because it is a Hawaiian adaptation of the Portuguese machete, which is a small, guitar-like instrument. So Isabela already has Pacific island interests! Her trademark features are her long, dark hair and big, brown eyes, exactly the same features that stick out the most with Moana. She is also the youngest on this list at just 15 years old, and since the Disney princesses are notoriously young (Snow White was only 14, and Jasmine was only 15, with all of them in their teens), they also have that in common.
8. Selena Gomez
Her baby face is one of the most recognizable in the world in terms of pop music, and right now Selena Gomez is hotter than ever, in all senses of the word. Would you believe she got her start on Barney and Friends? It’s true! And besides looking just like the newest Disney princess, Selena has other ties to the Disney franchise: she was on the Disney Channel television shows Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, The Suite Life on Deck, and Wizards of Waverly Place, and the Disney Channel Original movies Princess Protection Program and Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie. She is a totally new kind of Disney Princess, the network princess! But in all seriousness, Selena physically has everything one would need to play Moana, including the flower crown! This picture highlights all her likenesses- natural and hand-made- to her Disney doppelganger.
7. Lucy Hale
In my opinion, Lucy Hale and the aforementioned Selena Gomez could be twins. I can hardly tell them apart, and if you throw Moana in there, they could almost be triplets! Lucy, who was born Karen Lucille Hale, shares her exotic sort of look with all of the girls on this list of course, and would be a good contender to play Moana. She was also a costar of many of the girls on this list, like her “twin” Selena Gomez in Wizards of Waverly Place, and obviously, Shay Mitchell in the ongoing Pretty Little Liars. Also a singer, Lucy will be in two more movies coming up, Dude and Miles. The 27-year-old Tennessee native is not as close to her PLL costars and is often noticeably absent from their group activities, including a trip to Italy for Troian Bellisario’s bachelorette party. Hmm, being a loner does not seem like a Disney princess quality, so maybe in this case, Lucy only has the looks in common with Moana.
6. Janel Parrish
Pretty Little Liars is rife with Moana-lookalikes! Janel Parrish, who plays Mona Vanderwaal on the show, was born in Hawaii, which is appropriate for this list. Half Chinese and half Caucasian, in Hawaii she is called Hapa, which is a term for being half Asian. Her unique combination of ethnicities and her Hawaiian background make her a perfect Moana-lookalike. And like Moana, she is a talented singer, although Janel is a pianist and a Broadway star, as well. Like our fictional Polynesian princess, Janel loves big jewelry (Moana wears a big shell necklace). But not everything about her is in line with the character of Moana; Janel is deathly afraid of sharks, so I doubt she would be eager to set sail for a fabled island in the Pacific, where sharks are sure to be lurking in the water. In the very near future, you can look for Janel in the upcoming movies Until We Meet Again and Tiger.
5. America Ferrera
The woman who is known for being the title character on the show Ugly Betty sure isn’t very ugly in real life. In fact, she has the face to play a Disney princess, who as we know, are never ever ugly in the slightest. America Ferrera is (quite contradictorily) to that, also known for her bright smile and Honduran beauty. The youngest of six children, America’s olive skin and dark wavy locks makes her a dead ringer for the cute and pretty Moana. Her buxom curves have been a topic of conversation for America in the past, and while no Disney princess has ever really been considered overweight or curvy, Moana appears healthy and not like a stick figure, so in that respect, the two women are even more physically alike. America says of weight issues, including her own, “I think Hispanic women are beautiful with their curves… It’s so reassuring to have a woman heroine who triumphs over more than just what she has on the outside.” Well said, America!
4. Gina Rodriguez
Together with America Ferrera who we just talked about, Gina Rodriguez is another famous Hispanic actress in America. Her looks are similar to Ugly Betty’s, and thus similar to Moana’s. Known for her portrayal of Jane Villanueva in the CW show Jane the Virgin, 32-year-old Gina is Puerto Rican. It is not anywhere near Oceania, but her beautiful bronze coloring is akin to that of a Pacific islander. Along with her round brown eyes and the same long dark hair as all the others on this list, she fits the image of Moana nicely. Gina is very proud of her Latina background, and wants to play Latina characters as much as she can. Having been a salsa dancer for the majority of her life, she would be perfect in a music-filled, singing-and-dancing Disney film. I’d say all in all, Gina would be a great fit for Moana!
3. Phoebe Tonkin
You probably recognize this pretty face from the CW shows The Originals, The Secret Circle, and The Vampire Diaries, but Phoebe Tonkin could also be recognizable as a Moana twin. They’re like two peas in a pod! Phoebe is from Australia, the closest continent to Oceania, but besides that her creamy olive complexion, full brows, brown eyes, and big jewelry make her a great contender. Her face has been called “doll-like”, her beauty “natural”, and I agree. These physical characteristics are ones that Moana also possesses. Phoebe is a dancer, having taken classical ballet, hip hop, contemporary and tap dance lessons since was only four years old, so she has the musical aspect of Moana covered. She is also a model, and has a health website with her friend, actress Teresa Palmer, called YourZenLife. Phoebe dates her Vampire Diaries costar Paul Wesley, and has been since 2013.
One of the closest likenesses I could find to Moana is K.C. Undercover actress Zendaya, whose ravishing skin is a blend of German, Irish, English, Scottish, and African-American ancestries. Her whole look is one of natural beauty, and could easily be a Pacific islander. Moana’s features are not a far cry from hers, so they bear an excellent resemblance to each other. Soon Zendaya’s voice will be heard in the animated 2016 movie Duck Duck Goose, and she will be seen in the 2017 movies Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Greatest Showman. Previously, she starred in the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up, so she already has ties to Disney. However, unlike a lot of stars who get their start on the Disney Channel, Zendaya has no intentions of making a strong break from the kid-friendly image it perpetuates, because she wants to positively affect young people and be a role model to them.
1. Jessica Henwick
Rounding out our list is Game of Thrones actress Jessica Henwick. Of Singaporean and Zambian ethnicity, the 24-year-old English woman is also known for her roles in The Defenders, Fortitude, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silk, Spirit Warriors, and many more. Like all the others we discussed before her, Jessica shares the glowing coloration, wide face, and dark eyes and hair that Moana also has. She is the first East Asian actress to play a lead role in a British television series, but the reputation of the Game of Thrones for being lewd and nude is a problem for her. She has a no-nudity clause in her contract, so don’t expect to see her shed any clothes on screen. Then again, you never know; she says, “If they approached me, I don’t know. It’s hard to say without being in that position or reading the script first.”
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