When young R&B star Halle Bailey was announced as the star of Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of the beloved animated 1989 classic The Little Mermaid, not everyone was as enthused about the update to the Disney Renaissance favorite as her co-stars.
In a new interview with Variety, the 22-year-old singer/actress said that following the online hate she received, her grandparents shared their perspective having experiencing discrimination in their own lives.
“It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you,’ ” Bailey said.
About representation, Bailey added how she thinks her younger self might have felt seeing the original animated version of Ariel depicted as a person of color: “What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything. Things that seem so small to everyone else, it’s so big to us.”
Disney announced that Halle would be taking on the role of Ariel back in July 2019. “After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role,” director Rob Marshall said in a statement at the time.
While many were excited by Bailey’s casting, some expressed negative feedback at the time on social media, even starting a petition titled #NotMyAriel to have Disney recast the character with a white actress resembling the redheaded underwater princess from the 1989 animated film. Disney’s cable network Freeform responded with “An open letter to the Poor, Unfortunate Souls” who found an issue with Bailey’s casting.
Chloe Bailey, Halle’s sister and other-half of Chloe x Halle, said their family came together to support Halle as she dealt with the vitriol. “It’s important to have a strong support system around you,” Chloe told Variety. “It’s hard to carry the weight of the world on your own.”
Growing up, Halle couldn’t get enough of the Disney classic, Variety reported. And now, as she steps into the iconic role, she hopes audiences will be able to see themselves in her portrayal.
“I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special, and that they should be a princess in every single way,” Halle said. “There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be. That reassurance was something that I needed.”
In July 2021, Halle announced on Instagram that she had wrapped filming the movie, which is set to hit theaters in May 2023, Variety reported.
“And just like that..that’s a wrap ?? after auditioning for this film when i was 18 just about to turn 19, to now finishing filming through a pandemic when i turned 21 ..we have finally made it…?,” she wrote in the caption.
“I feel so grateful to have experienced this film in all of its glory. it has been the toughest experience being away from everything and everyone i’ve ever known, to feeling self doubt/ loneliness, but also feeling such freedom and perseverance as i’ve reached the end,” Halle continued at the time. “This experience has made me so much stronger than i ever thought i could be.”
She added, “I’m so grateful to have such lovely and talented people in the cast like @jonahhauerking that will be my friend for infinite lifetimes, @jacobtremblay who i’m so proud of ? and legends like @bardemantarctic @melissamccarthy @awkwafina @daveeddiggs who are masters of their craft but are so welcoming and open to little old me. as well as to the rest of the beautiful cast and crew. i cannot wait for time to speed up so you all can watch this film because it was made with so much love (plus blood sweat and tears) lol thank you sardinia for a wonderful ending!!! Xoxo.”