Halle Bailey Bravely Speaks Out, Unbothered by Racist Backlash to ‘The Little Mermaid’

in Disney, Movies

Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid 2023

Credit: Disney

Halle Bailey is ready for her version of Princess Ariel to grace screens worldwide on May 26.

In the months leading up to the release of the live-action The Little Mermaid (2023), Bailey has faced near-constant racist harassment online. But as a Black woman playing the role of a white animated Disney Princess, she expected criticism. Taking comfort in the teary-eyed reactions of hundreds of young Black girls in viral trailer reaction videos, Bailey remains unbothered by the haters.

“I don’t really let that affect me,” she told British Vogue in a recent interview. “I mean, I grew up in Georgia. I’m from the Deep South. Being a Black woman, in general, you just know the way things are and how people sometimes are just blatantly racist.”

Halle Bailey as Ariel talking to Scuttle (Awkwafina) in live-action 'The Little Mermaid'
Credit: Disney

“My nana is 85. My grandpa’s a little bit older,” Bailey said. “I’ve talked to them about their life experiences. My nana would see her family picking cotton and she experienced being restricted to only drinking from a certain water fountain, and the paper bag test.” (The Brown Paper Bag Test refers to a discriminatory, Jim Crow-era practice when dark-skinned Black people were forbidden from entering certain social institutions.)

“When I hear my grandparents’ stories, I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” she continued. “All of that hate I got is nothing compared to what my ancestors lived in their lifetime.”

Still, Bailey, who grew to fame singing in a duo with her sister Chlöe Bailey, never expected to take on the role of Ariel. “The version of Ariel in my head was the one we all know and love: pale skin and bright red hair. She didn’t look like me,” she said.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid' live-action remake
Credit: Disney

But the world already loves the new Ariel. Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid (1989), is enamored with Bailey’s take on the role. “I’m SO proud of you & your beautiful performance as Ariel,” she wrote in a 2022 Instagram post.

The Little Mermaid premieres on May 26, 2023. Directed by Rob Marshall, it features music by Alan Menken and Lin Manuel-Miranda. The film also stars Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Awkwafina as Scuttle, and Jacob Tremblay as Flounder.

Are you excited to see Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid? Share your thoughts with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

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