Halle Bailey Discusses The Backlash And Racism Over Being Cast As “The Little Mermaid”
When it was announced a few years ago that 22-year-old Halle Bailey was cast as the title role in Disney’s live-action version of The Little Mermaid, trolls from sea to shining sea were ready to denounce an Ariel who just happened to be Black. It’s not surprising though, because whenever a non-POC character gets switched to a different race it triggers something in people’s brains where they just can’t accept the idea that sometimes….people aren’t white. GASP! And unfortunately, Halle couldn’t really enjoy the accomplishment of booking such a coveted role because of all the hate she received. But now she’s speaking out about the backlash and how it helped her to understand just how important her turn as Ariel is.
Disney’s decision to provide audiences with a diverse cast for the live action Little Mermaid definitely had people in their feelings, and not in a good way. Finding out that a beautiful young Black woman would be portraying Ariel caused Twitter to clutch its pearls in devastation. Although, the negative reactions she received were unnerving, Halle has remained quiet about the experience so far. However, in a recent interview with Variety, Halle discusses the importance of being Disney’s second Black princess and how she got in touch with herself to fully step into the role to inspire young girls who may hope to one day become Disney’s THIRD Black princess (yes that was shade).
“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,” Bailey says. “There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be. That reassurance was something that I needed.”
Even Halle’s sister Chloe Bailey (aka Beyonce Pt. II) spoke on how their entire family had to rally together in the face of the racism she endured, telling Variety “It’s important…to have a strong support system around you. It’s hard to carry the weight of the world on your own.” And speaking of family, Halle also counts the words she received from her grandparents as inspiration to flip her fin in the face of anyone who believes she doesn’t deserve the role.
“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 recalls.
And she started to think about how her younger self would have been inspired if the cartoon version of Ariel had been a person of color. “What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything,” Bailey says. “Things that seem so small to everyone else, it’s so big to us.”
Halle may be fine now after all she’s endured, but I’m not. I can’t believe there was so much backlash over a bunch of talking fish, because the story is basically about a fish girl who makes a diabolical pact with an octopus witch for a pair of human legs so she can sashay on up to the surface to get with a human prince. And honestly, you don’t have to be any particular race to make that story a reality.