The Little Mermaid's Halle Bailey Opens Up About Rising Above Racist Backlash After Casting Announcement

·3 min read
Halle Bailey (Photo: Paras Griffin via Getty Images)
Halle Bailey (Photo: Paras Griffin via Getty Images)

Halle Bailey (Photo: Paras Griffin via Getty Images)

Singer and actor Halle Bailey has spoken out about how she dealt with the racist hate she endured after it was announced she’d be starring in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

In 2019, it was revealed that the Grammy nominee would be taking on the role of Ariel in a new adaptation of the Disney classic, which will finally be released in cinemas next year.

Halle is only the second Black actor to play a Disney princess (the first being Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Tianna in 2009’s The Princess And The Frog), and told Variety: “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.

“There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be. That reassurance was something that I needed.”

While the news of the casting was largely embraced at the time, there was also a backlash from some racist critics who objected to the Chloe X Halle singer playing the character, who was depicted as white in the original cartoon.

At the time, Halle’s family “banded together against the backlash”, according to Variety, with the star’s grandparents proving to be particularly helpful in rising above the hate.

“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’,” Halle continued.

She added: “Things that seem so small to everyone else, it’s so big to us.”

While the film is still another year away, director Rob Marshall – who previously helmed Chicago and Mary Poppins Returns – heaped praise on Halle’s performance within the Variety piece.

“You could tell right away that she was able to harness Ariel’s passion, her fire, her soul, her joy and her heart,” Rob enthused.

Variety also revealed that Halle’s incarnation of Ariel would “incorporate [her] trademark locs with some looser tresses”, with the filmmaker teasing: “She looks stunning in red hair; not everybody does.”

And of Halle’s rendition of the iconic Part Of Your World, he said: “It’s the most chilling, and the most thrilling, film moment because it crystallises not just her incredible vocal ability but the emotional passion she has in singing it.”

Halle will be joined in this new version of The Little Mermaid by Jonah Hauer-King and Melissa McCarthy, portraying love interest Prince Eric and the villainous Ursula, respectively.

Javier Bardem will play her on-screen father, King Triton, while Awkwafina and Daveed Diggs will also be voicing characters in the film.

Help and support:

  • Tell MAMA supports victims of anti-Muslim hate.

  • Young Minds offers information on racism and mental health for younger people.

  • SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality) provides help to victims of hate.

  • Stop Hate UK works to challenge all forms of hate.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.