Meet Maia Kealoha: The Young Star Set to Shine as Lilo in Disney’s Live-Action ‘Lilo & Stitch’

Maia Kealoha makes her Hollywood debut as Lilo in Disney’s live-action “Lilo & Stitch.”

Maia Kealoha attends Gold Gala 2024 at The Music Center on May 11, 2024. PHOTO: (VIA PEOPLE, RODIN ECKENROTH/GETTY IMAGES FOR GOLD HOUSE)
Maia Kealoha attends Gold Gala 2024 at The Music Center on May 11, 2024. PHOTO: (VIA PEOPLE, RODIN ECKENROTH/GETTY IMAGES FOR GOLD HOUSE)

Maia Kealoha, a talented 7-year-old from Hawaii, is making waves in Hollywood with her debut as Lilo in Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of the beloved 2002 animated classic “Lilo & Stitch.”

Kealoha’s casting was announced in March 2023 after an extensive nationwide search, and her journey from a young hula dancer to a rising star is nothing short of inspiring.

Kealoha made her first significant red carpet appearance at the Gold Gala on May 11, an annual event that celebrates excellence in entertainment, the arts, business, and culture among Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.

This year, the gala held special significance as it honored the first responders who bravely fought the devastating Maui wildfires with the Gold House’s Social Impact Award.

Despite being the youngest attendee and presenter at the gala, Kealoha’s presence was anything but small.

She shared the stage with notable figures such as Auli’i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in Disney’s animated film, and Krystal Ka’ai, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs).

Maia Kealoha, Krystal Ka'ai, and Auli'i Cravalho present an award to Maui first responders at the 2024 Gold Gala. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, RODIN ECKENROTH/GETTY IMAGES FOR GOLD HOUSE)
Maia Kealoha, Krystal Ka’ai, and Auli’i Cravalho present an award to Maui first responders at the 2024 Gold Gala. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, RODIN ECKENROTH/GETTY IMAGES FOR GOLD HOUSE)

Together, they paid tribute to the heroes of the wildfires, highlighting the event’s focus on community and resilience.

Before stepping onto the stage, Kealoha spoke with PEOPLE, expressing her excitement about her new role. “When I found out I was going to be Lilo, my jaw literally dropped and I couldn’t even believe it,” she said.

“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!”

Kealoha’s enthusiasm for her role is palpable, and she sees herself in the character of Lilo in many ways. “I would say we really love grass,” she noted, referring to Lilo’s iconic grass hula skirt.

However, she pointed out some differences as well. “In terms of our rooms, she has a lot of toys in her room and I don’t really have toys. I would say I’m a crafty girl.”

One of her favorite aspects of playing Lilo is the wardrobe. Kealoha particularly enjoyed wearing a bathing suit adorned with a pineapple, an outfit that captures the playful and tropical essence of the film.

For the Gold Gala, she donned a stunning creation by Hawaiian designer Kini Zamora, known for his appearance on “Project Runway.” Her attire for the evening was a perfect blend of traditional and modern Hawaiian fashion, showcasing her heritage and style.

Kealoha’s journey to landing the role of Lilo is rooted in her background in hula dancing. This traditional Hawaiian dance not only connected her with her culture but also played a crucial part in her audition process. Her natural talent and dedication to hula helped her stand out among many hopefuls, ultimately leading to her casting in the iconic role.

The young actress’s night didn’t end with her presentation. As the first to hit the afterparty, which began after 10 pm, Kealoha demonstrated her vibrant energy and readiness for the Hollywood spotlight. Her modern dance moves were a hit, further proving that this Hawaiian native is prepared to bring Lilo to life with authenticity and charm.

Maia Kealoha dances during the Gold Gala afterparty. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ARAYA DOHENY/GETTY IMAGES FOR GOLD HOUSE)
Maia Kealoha dances during the Gold Gala afterparty. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ARAYA DOHENY/GETTY IMAGES FOR GOLD HOUSE)

Kealoha is joined in the cast by notable actors including Zach Galifianakis, Sydney Elizabeth Agudong, and Kahiau Machado.

Together, they aim to bring a fresh yet faithful adaptation of the animated classic to the screen, capturing the spirit of family, friendship, and adventure that “Lilo & Stitch” is known for.

As anticipation builds for the release of the live-action “Lilo & Stitch” on Disney+, fans of the original film and new audiences alike are eager to see Kealoha’s portrayal of the beloved character.

Her infectious enthusiasm, combined with her talent and cultural connection to the role, promises a performance that will resonate with viewers of all ages.

Kealoha’s story is a testament to the power of dreams and the importance of cultural representation in media. As she embarks on this exciting journey, she carries with her the hopes and pride of her community, ready to inspire others with her portrayal of Lilo.

With her debut on the horizon, Maia Kealoha is set to take audiences on a Hawaiian roller coaster ride when “Lilo & Stitch” hits Disney+ soon. Her journey from hula dancer to Hollywood starlet is just beginning, and the world is ready to watch her shine.

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