Is Moana a Samoan?

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Moana’s mom is a Polynesian. When she was a young person growing up in Samoa, her mom spoke the language of her people. So I’m very familiar with the culture that she’s come from,” Clements says. “There’s a lot of cultural similarities among the people they met growing up and even though she doesn’t look anything like them, she has some of the same experiences they may have had growing up.”

Clements acknowledges that people may not like the idea of Moana being a Polynesian. “I remember back on the set, when we first met her, she was sitting alone, and somebody asked her what her ethnicity was. I said, ‘I just don’t know.’ We’d met other people from the show who are Polynesian and they were all so excited to know that something they’ve said on TV now, something they’ve been doing for years, is true,” Clements says.

“Moana is really a Polynesian girl with a Samoan name,” she adds. “She’s a very different story than the stereotype that people often have in regard to a Polynesian, but it’s a story that people can love and latch onto.”

The other main source of Polynesians in the show is, sadly, not a Polynesian.

The other main source of Polynesians in the show is, sadly, not a Polynesian.

As Clements put it, “there’s the Pacific islander in Moana; you find her when she’s the young and naïve Samoan kid. But there’s also an Asian and African and American Samoan character — and I will say if I see a Samoan character on television it’s for the same reason if there’s a Caucasian or black character it’s because that character can speak Samoan.”

The Samoan character in Moana is of the same age as the Polynesians but their characters are different — at least when it comes to ethnicity.

“I’m not an expert on the Samoan religion and I don’t go to Samoan festivals like I’ve been doing and I have no idea why they’re so big on Samoan culture,” Clements explains. “However, if you follow TV shows it’s not surprising for many of them to include a Samoan character, it’s why they’re doing it and it’s exactly because of their Samoan culture. It’s a really great thing to reflect on.”