Halle Bailey opens up about racist ‘Little Mermaid’ backlash: ‘You just expect it’

A close-up photo of a young woman with black hair posing in dangly earrings and a sheer black dress.
Halle Bailey attends the 2023 pre-Grammy gala in Beverly Hills.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

Halle Bailey has opened up about the racist backlash to her casting as Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.”

In an interview with the Face magazine published Thursday, the singer and rising movie star said she knew the casting news would make a splash and anticipated hateful reactions when she accepted the coveted role. But she was prepared to drown out the nonsense.

“As a Black person, you just expect it and it’s not really a shock anymore,” she told the Face.


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Shortly after Bailey was crowned the next Disney princess, #NotMyAriel began trending, and haters complained about the studio choosing a Black actor to play a character who was white in the 1989 animated film.

While speaking with the Face, Bailey revealed that she has managed to dodge much of the negative commentary — thanks in part to early-career advice she received from her longtime mentor, Beyoncé. (Bailey and her sister, Chloë Bailey, rose through the ranks as Beyoncé’s protégés and release music as the duo Chloe x Halle through Queen Bey’s record label, Parkwood Entertainment.)

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“When [Chlöe and I] first signed to Parkwood, [Beyoncé] was always like ‘I never read my comments. Don’t ever read the comments,’” Bailey recalled.

“Honestly, when the teaser came out, I was at the D23 Expo [the biggest Disney fan event] and I was so happy. I didn’t see any of the negativity.”

Of course, there has been plenty of positive feedback to Bailey’s casting too. After Disney released a teaser trailer for “The Little Mermaid” in September, countless parents shared videos on social media of their daughters’ giddy and awestruck reactions to seeing Bailey onscreen as Ariel for the first time.

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“I was crying all night for two days, just staring at [the videos] in disbelief,” Bailey told the Face. “It makes me feel more grateful for where I am.”


Well before the reaction videos started pouring in, Bailey had a feeling her groundbreaking turn as Ariel would be a big deal.

“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,” the 23-year-old performer said. “It’s so important for us to see ourselves.”

Directed by Rob Marshall, “The Little Mermaid” opens in theaters May 26.