After Sydney Agudong got cast as Nani in Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch” live-action film, a Twitter thread explaining the difference between Native Hawaiian and Hawaiian Native went viral.
A Twitter user who goes by (@LittleMerbeing) expressed her disappointment about Sydney Agudong getting cast as Nani.
“Since news broke a few days ago I feel like I need to speak out on this subject since I am born and raised as a Native Hawaiian in Hawai‘i. This actress is a Hawaiian native and NOT a Native Hawaiian. There is a clear difference & this is that Thread,” Little Merbeing said.
According to HITC, Sydney Agudong was born and raised on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The outlet reports that her ethnicity is British-Irish with Hawaiian and Filipino ancestry. Sydney’s mother, Karen Agudong, hails from Kapaa, Hawaii, and studied at the University of Hawaii.
Now, back to the Twitter thread, Little Merbeing said, “Native Hawaiians are the indigenous race that has inhabited the Hawaiian Islands for centuries. We are Polynesian, very brown, & identify simply as ‘Hawaiian.’ Now, the new (incorrect) term of “Hawaiian,” referring to a person from the state of Hawai‘i, is from the same mentality as a person being Californian, Floridian, or Texan. Though their citizenship is valid that is not anyone’s real race. This terminology seems to be the confusion around this casting’s ancestry, in that dumb statehood term yeah she’s “Hawaiian” but she legitimately not a Hawaiian. This stupid terminology needs to end due to the fact it is inherently confusing people into erasing real natives’ identities as Hawaiians.”
The Twitter user continues by speaking about gentrification and the marginalization of Native Hawaiians.
“Our population has been dwindling due to decades of gentrification & marginalization so yes modern many Native Hawaiians are very mixed race and vary in different skin tones. However, the actress casted for Nani is NOT one of us,” Little Merbeing said.
The Twitter thread continues about Sydney being mentioned as a Hawaiian native in the media.
“The live-action Actress has been cited in many sources simply as a Hawaiian native. Meaning she was born & raised here on the islands but does not possess the same indigenous Native Hawaiian ancestry as the character Nani does,” Little Merbeing says.
Little Merbeing continues about the ‘Lilo & Stitch’ character Nani being a Native Hawaiian.
The Twitter user states, “There is many evidence that Nani is without a doubt of Native Hawaiian ancestry. She is depicted as a brown Polynesian, works for a luau, practices the values of ‘ohana, Lilo is a hula dancer, & their last name is Pelekai, a native Hawaiian name.”
“When digging a little deeper, as a Native Hawaiian, I found this casting to be even more offensive. Her true ethnic background is Caucasian (mom) & Filipino (dad). Furthermore I have seen reports on here that claims her mom was a realtor here in the island,” Little Merbeing said.
The thread continues about Sydney’s parents selling Hawaiian land.
“The fact that she has a white parent who has sold land here is an even bigger slap in the face. Many may not understand our frustration with owning land in Hawai‘i but basically she has sold native lands to people who can afford it, majority rich white people.”
According to Sydney’s mother, Karen’s Linkedin profile she’s a full-time realtor with eXp Realty in Kauai, Hawaii. She has been working with the company for over five years now and previously worked with Aloha Island Properties for almost 18 years.
The Twitter thread ends with Little Merbeing saying, “This whole situation has turned out to just be an extremely big mess. Race, terminology, colorism, inappropriate casting, so many issues are piling up here. In the end, I appreciate anyone defending true native Hawaiians. We have gone unseen and unheard in many aspects of society for too long and it’s about time we don’t.”
Many people are expressing their opinions about this Twitter thread. Check out everybody’s reactions down below.
This is a great thread.— Kosoko Jackson (@KosokoJackson) April 16, 2023
Disney has unlimited power. There is no reason they couldn’t have recruited a native Hawaiian. The way so many of us (going to Hawaii during the pandemic for example…) follow the colonizer mind set really need to be unpacked. We must do so much better. https://t.co/JdmT3sAKsz
Native Palauan through my dad and yeah, the casting choice is weird… as a kid I felt happy Lilo looked like me so taking it away and giving it to white-passing actresses is very weird. https://t.co/LDtev7dJSH— Nymphia.🌸 (COMMS 0/3) (@mikudecora) April 16, 2023
She’s Hawaiian as I am Pennsylvanian. Being a Hawaiian Native and a Native Hawaiian are 2 different things. What don’t you understand? It is a big deal, whitewashing a marginalized person and culture surrounding it.— 🌸Miracle🌸 (@miracleeannee) April 15, 2023
Please educate yourself on why it is a big deal. https://t.co/Um8Y9wkjZW
this sht is becoming boring, if they continue with their pick then dont watch it, its a disney movie, its not a biography… its about a kid with an alien friend‼️ https://t.co/Fp3jKuKnM4— krumping papi (@KrumpingPapi) April 15, 2023
the hilarity of disney casting a wasian actor to play a character that literally works at a tourist trap and experiences her family being torn from her from the imperialist government as the native child protection act is being actively threatened https://t.co/mUvXHxp1lX— 🌙 (@keikino_) April 15, 2023
this book’s express focus is antiblackness in hawaii but it also talks a lot abt the different modes of indigeneity there and how settler colonialism (which sydney agudong’s mother as a white realtor in kauai perpetuates) shapes all that. good bookhttps://t.co/AfQ7ZNdiN5 https://t.co/yO8Tg9nuBf— 玥 👩🏻❤️👩🏻 (@togekisskiss) April 15, 2023
this is like getting an american to play pocahontas instead of an indigenous american person https://t.co/SlC6ZDrSUc— @dynaamariee (@earthofdyna) April 15, 2023
this is the only thread you need to understand why this casting made people so mad.— dan (@DanielLaRiva9) April 15, 2023
and no, the little mermaid casting is not the same (unless someone here is a mermaid and wants to be mad about that casting, y'all should stfu) https://t.co/q6P9Vf4Fzv
i’m not surprised that Disney is whitewashing Nani in the Lilo & Stitch movie— Jerrica, Local Sports Lesbian (@JinkiesJerrica) April 15, 2023
back in 2018, me and a few other Black women called out Disney for whitewashing Tiana in the trailers for Wreck-It-Ralph 2
our criticisms made the news, and Disney fixed it. wild they’d do it again https://t.co/Las9t58WIt pic.twitter.com/eR5bR0CSCa
Who cares? Is she as thicc as the original?? https://t.co/GyzZezMFJn— Anthony Barbieri 🐺 (@antbarbieri59) April 16, 2023
This is SO important. Because I had too block so many people telling me that I should stop complaining about the casting and that I‘m just „too sensitive“. #LiloAndStitch READ THIS! https://t.co/n2kp9GPjH2— blueberry muffin 🫐 (@savefatee) April 15, 2023
What are your thoughts about Sydney Agudong getting cast as Nani in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Lilo & Stitch?