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Nicole Scherzinger On Voicing Moana’s Mom And Growing Up Hawaiian

Thank you to Disney Studios for hosting me during the Moana Event. All interview photos by Louise Bishop/Mom Start.


Since I can sing along to pretty much every Eden’s Crush song, along with a fair number of The Pussycat Dolls songs, too, getting to chat with Nicole Scherzinger was a pretty big deal. Don’t cha want to know what she had to say about growing up in Hawaii and voicing a character in the hit Disney movie Moana?

Why did Nicole want to be involved in Moana?

Well I didn’t want to be a part of the project. I felt I had to be a part of the project, and that’s because I’m from Hawaiian descent. I knew that the movie was going to be about the Polynesian people, and I don’t think Disney ever really did a film like that. I know they touched upon it in Lilo and Stitch, but I know people from my family were like, “No, that’s like the fake kind.” Plus, I didn’t want to go back home and hear from family, “How come you’re not in Moana? You are Moana, Nicole.” Yeah, first of all I’m too old, okay?  So because of that and [because] it’s the story of our people, where we come from. And I’m just so proud that Disney did right by us, by the Polynesian people, and stayed true to our culture, where we come from, our mana, our power, our piko, our lifeline and just told a beautiful story about a young girl. It wasn’t a love story, it was a heroine story about a young girl’s journey, which we can all relate to about discovering who we really are and what we’re meant for, what our purpose and our destiny is, and that’s a beautiful story.

nicole-4How did she relate to her character?

I have the honor of playing Moana’s mother, Sina… And they’re [the filmmakers] trying to give me the back story, and I was like, “Please, I lived this.” I lived with my mother and my tutu, which means grandmother in Hawaiian… In our culture, the men are the head of the household, but the women are the backbone. They are everything. They are the strength. They keep it together.


How did voicing Sina compare to performing on stage?

I wanted to be Whitney Houston. It’s The Greatest Love of All that made me realize that I wanted to sing, and so from a little girl I always performed live. I was fortunate enough to go to a performing arts school, and did a lot of theater, and a lot of musical theater. The stage is my favorite place to be, really musical theater is. I just finished doing Cats a year ago in the west and I was supposed to be doing it on Broadway. And I wanna go back to the theater when the time is right. But I do love being in the recording studio as well. I love touring. Doing this movie was such a new experience for me because I’ve never been an animated character, and when you’re acting, you’re acting to-not the other actor or the character-you’re acting with another just person giving you the lines, and so you have to just imagine everything, to be so creative in your head. They show you these like sketched out drawings of your character in the scene. And everything looks penciled in, right? You just have to kind of close your eyes and put yourself there, and kind of be extra animated.


Did she bring in personal experiences into voicing the character Sina?

It was interesting because in the script they had a couple different readings, different ways they wanted to get the story across. Especially the part where she’s trying to explain to her daughter that you can’t go be on the reef. Trying to explain because, you know, your father’s been there and he’s had a great loss and he’s just trying to protect you… I definitely- anything that I do, I think artists do- you draw from personal connection. She says, “Moana, sometimes who you are or who you want to be, it’s not meant to be.” And I drew from that experience and I drew from my mother… I know that my mom and my tutu and all the women in my family have sacrificed everything for their children. They’re just selfless. And it’s not to be like, “Hey, I’m selfless!” That’s just who the women in my family are. And when I listened- when I thought of that line I really thought of my mother and my tutu and how, sometimes, who you are or who you wish you could be… I’m sure they had their own dreams and their own aspirations. I know my mother didn’t mean to have me at such a young age… I was like, “How do I turn this into a positive?” Because she was saying it’s not meant to be, and I felt that it was a bit negative, you know, because we’re always like, “No, you can do it! You can achieve it!” Which is why she actually lets her go in the end. So it was like, “How can I make this make sense to me?”… Sometimes you have to look past yourself. We have made sacrifices for the better, or what we think is for the better. But then I think in the end she does know that she trusts Moana and allows her to go and find her destiny.

nicole-2What was the voice inside of her head saying growing up? And does it still speak to her?

When I was a little girl I came from nothing, but for some reason I felt like I was meant to be Whitney Houston. Like I wanted to be… Not meant to be her, because no one can replicate her ever, or touch her. But, I knew I was meant to sing and to, you know, to be a voice. And it’s interesting, my life has taken different paths. And I don’t regret anything, and I’m very grateful for everything. But last year… I finished my year and I was reflecting and I was like, “How do I feel about this year?” It’s the first year I haven’t really put music out. What am I doing? Am I gonna make a new album? How can I compete with all these twenty year olds? And everybody’s got the Max Martin singles. What am I doing? And I really thought about it. And I was like, I’m really tired of people telling me, “You know, you know of like, sing everything. And that’s very confusing. And you do everything. That’s really confusing for people.” And I’m like, “Why can’t I do my own thing?” So I decided last year that I was gonna create my own show, and do my own album that comes out of it. I don’t wanna talk about it too much, because I’d rather do it. And it’s gonna take a lot of time… I believe we all have- you know, we’re all made for a purpose. A great purpose. And I haven’t got there yet. I came up with this because in interviews people are- are usually like, “Wow, you’ve done so much. What is there left to do?” And I’m like, that’s funny, because I feel like I’m just scratching at the surface and I’m just using a fraction of my potential. So I’ve got everything left to do. So it’s taking that time. It’s carving that time out now for myself to create what I feel like I was made to create… I can’t die with this in me. So I have something that I want to create, a project that I want to share- and that will be my legacy that I leave behind. So I’m working on it. And I’m getting there. It’s really taking me… Obviously God has His own timing.

From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes Moana, a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess & the Frog) and produced by Osnat Shurer (Lifted, One Man Band), Moana is in theaters now.

You can find all things Moana here, including full event coverage, exclusive interviews and more!

As The Bunny Hops®