Disney Casting Sydney Agudong as Nani Sparks Native Hawaiian and Hawaiian Native Debate

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.



What are your thoughts about Sydney Agudong getting cast as Nani in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Lilo & Stitch?

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