Halle Bailey Opens Up About ‘The Little Mermaid’ Racist Backlash: “As a Black Person, You Just Expect It”
It seems that every time news breaks about Halle Bailey playing Ariel in Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid — whether it was the initial casting news or the teaser debut — it goes viral. That hasn’t always been a good thing as some of the churn was fueled by racist backlash, something Bailey says is not a surprise.
“As a Black person, you just expect it and it’s not really a shock anymore,” Bailey says in a new cover story for The Face. “I know people are like, ‘It’s not about race.’ But now that I’m her … People don’t understand that when you’re Black there’s this whole other community. It’s so important for us to see ourselves.”
She credits mentor Beyoncé (whom she referred to as “B”) for offering sage advice to her and sister Chlöe Bailey that she continues to lean on. “When [Chlöe and I] first signed to Parkwood, B was always like, ‘I never read my comments. Don’t ever read the comments.’ Honestly, when the teaser came out, I was at the D23 Expo and I was so happy. I didn’t see any of the negativity.”
When The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Bailey last year at the D23 event, she relayed that the most magical part of the experience for her was knowing that “somebody like me” got the opportunity to play such an iconic part. “The fact that I get to represent all of these little young Black and brown boys and girls who are to come is really special to me because I know that if I had that when I was younger, it would have changed my whole perspective on life.”
For the new issue of The Face, on stands Thursday, Bailey sat for a conversation with features editor Olive Pometsey and was styled by Face fashion director Danny Reed who leaned into her mermaid role in a variety of fresh-out-of-water looks including a custom Diesel tail.
After The Little Mermaid, set for release on May 26, Bailey will be seen in another high-profile remake, Blitz Bazawule’s The Color People which will come out on Dec. 20. She’s also hard at work on finishing up her first solo album after achieving breakout sister alongside her sister in the group Chlöe x Halle. “The music I’m making now is happy and about love, but it’s also about vulnerability and how scared you can be when you know that somebody now has power over your heart,” she says.
Speaking of her heart, Bailey also tells the mag that she was inundated with texts from friends and family who were sending her all of the reaction videos that flooded TikTok after the teaser debuted. The clips showed kids, many of who were young Black girls, responding to seeing the footage for the first time. “I was crying all night for two days, just staring at them in disbelief. It makes me feel more grateful for where I am,” she said, later opening up on how she has been changed by each of the projects she has taken on. “I just want to continue to heal through my art. Each project I’ve done has taught me something about myself, has given me something to live off.”