Halle Bailey On Weaving Black Women’s Experiences Into Ariel’s Character In The Little Mermaid

halle bailey on the redcarpet for the little mermaid

Halle Bailey broke the internet and warmed little girls’ hearts when it was revealed she would be starring in The Little Mermaid as our first Black Ariel. But the role is about more than just looks — Bailey channeled the long-silenced history of Black women into a character that, surprisingly, actually has a lot in common with them.

For Bailey, Ariel’s experience is a “spiritual journey”, a “transformative experience of finding yourself”.

But it’s more than that. It’s also about “the sacrifices you have to make to ultimately get there”.

“As a young Black woman, I was really trying to take examples of my mother and grandmothers and see all that they have risked and done to get us here as a family,” Bailey tells PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“As women, we sacrifice a lot to get to where we are.

“Just taking pieces from that story, from those beautiful stories, and identifying them with Ariel’s world — I really tried to do it that way.”

Bailey was born and raised in Mableton, Georgia, in America’s south, and thinks of her grandparents’ subjugation under colonialism whenever she is faced with the racist vitriol (like that gross #NotMyAriel hashtag) that’s been hounding her since her Disney debut.

“When the negative comments started, I was shocked, because it wasn’t something I really anticipated – at least not on that scale,” she told the Sunday Mirror.

“Then I started to think, ‘I’m from the deep south, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve experienced racism’.

“My nana used to see her family cotton picking and my grandpa remembers ‘whites only’ water fountains.

“When I think of the horrendous experiences they had, it makes a hashtag and some online hate seem totally inconsequential.”

Instead of letting that BS get her down, she’s making sure she’s using her role for good — by creating the representation little Black girls have only dreamed of. And if you’ve seen The Little Mermaid, you’ll know she nailed it — you can feel it in every yearning look, every determined grimace, every sweet smile that graces Bailey’s face during her enchanting performance. 

Halle Bailey isn’t playing Ariel. In those moments, she IS Ariel. And because of this, every little Black girl that watches The Little Mermaid will identify with her too. 

Image Credit: Getty Images / Lisa Maree Williams