In case you’re someone who still doesn’t understand why representation matters, let me break it down for you: I did not see a Disney Princess who looked like me until I was 20, when Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella starring Brandy premiered on ABC. Luckily, my nieces get to see Tiana, as well as Halle Bailey as Ariel and H.E.R. as Belle.
Singer/actress Bailey talked to Variety about how important her role as Ariel is to Black families. She’s giving kids the role model she always wanted when she was young.
“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.”
Of course, the internet can never let us have nice things, so the racist trolls were out in full force. The hashtag #NotMyAriel trended for a while, but Halle’s supporters, including her family, had her back.
“It’s important to have a strong support system around you,” her sister Chloe said. “It’s hard to carry the weight of the world on your own.”
Halle explained how her grandparents’ stories of dealing with racism helped her push past the haters and focus on what being a princess really means.
“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 recalls.
The grown-ish star only needs to imagine how she would’ve felt about seeing a Black Ariel to know how truly influential her performance will be.
“What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything,” she said. “Things that seem so small to everyone else, it’s so big to us.”
As much as we all love The Little Mermaid, Ariel does make some questionable decisions. Yes, she trades her voice for a boring man, making an ill-advised deal with Ursula in the process, but I’m not here to talk about Ariel as a role model. The important thing to remember is how excited kids get the minute “Part of Your World” starts. How beautiful will it be for Black children to get that anthem of independence sung by a princess who looks like them and understands their lives?
The Little Mermaid, starring Halle Bailey, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Awkwafina as Scuttle, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Chef Louis and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, premieres in May 2023.