Meet Maia Kealoha, Who Plays Lilo in the Live-Action Lilo & Stitch (Exclusive)

Maia Kealoha gold gala 051324 3 6447a5cbbaf94d8885d03c3e4cbfcccd

Maia Kealoha is ready to make a splash in Hollywood at just 7 years old.

The native Hawaiian portrays Lilo in Disney’s upcoming live-action version of the popular 2002 animated film Lilo & Stitch. Kealoha was announced as the lead in March 2023 after a nationwide search.

Zach Galifianakis, Sydney Elizabeth Agudong and Kahiau Machado are also part of the cast.

She recently made her major red carpet debut at the Gold Gala on May 11, the annual event celebrating Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander excellence in entertainment, the arts, business, culture and more.

The actress was the youngest attendee and presenter, honoring first responders who fought the devastating Maui wildfires with Gold House’s Social Impact award. She was joined on stage by another Disney star, Moana‘s Auli’i Cravahlo, and Krystal Ka’ai, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on AANHPIs.

Maia Kealoha, Krystal Ka’ai, and Auli’i Cravalho present an award to Maui first responders at the 2024 Gold Gala.

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images for Gold House

Before she hit the stage, PEOPLE caught up with the rising star, who shared what it was like learning she was cast in a Disney film.

“When I found out I was going to be Lilo, my jaw literally dropped and I couldn’t even believe it,” Kealoha recalled. “I rung my dad and I said, ‘I did it! I’m Lilo! I’m Lilo.’ And then they grabbed me and we jumped up and down. I was so excited!”

When asked how she’s similar to her on-screen character, she responded, “I would say we really love grass.” [Lilo wears a grass hulu skirt in the film.]

“In terms of our rooms, she has a lot of toys in her room and I don’t really have toys,” she added. “I would say I’m a crafty girl.”

Maia Kealoha dances during the Gold Gala afterparty.

Araya Doheny/Getty Images for Gold House

As for her favorite outfit from the movie, Kealoha said she loved the bathing suit with a pineapple on it. For the gala itself, the young actress wore a creation by Hawaiian designer — and Project Runway alum — Kini Zamora.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

Kealoha, whose background in hula helped her land the coveted role, also showed off more modern dance moves as the first person to hit the afterparty at the gala, which kicked off after 10pm!

But it was no problem for the Hawaiian native, who was clearly on island time!

You can see Kealoha embark on a Hawaiian roller coaster ride when Lilo & Stitch hits Disney+ soon.

Source link