In The Spotlight: Halle Bailey

Welcoming Halle Bailey, the newest Disney Princess

Earlier last week, Disney announced newcomer Halle Bailey will play Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. The 1989 animated fairy-tale tells a story of a mermaid named Ariel who wishes to be human after falling in love with a prince who once fell overboard. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch Ursula to become human in exchange for her singing voice.

When Disney revealed that Halle Bailey is their newest princess – let’s just say the news definitely rocked the boat. Opinions weighed in all over the internet and a hashtag, #NotMyAriel, went viral over social platforms.

Who is Halle Bailey?

19-year-old Halle Bailey is not new to the entertainment world. She’s one half of the R&B sister singing duo, Chloe x Halle. In 2013, the sisters uploaded a beautiful cover of Beyoncé’s ballad, Pretty Hurts, on YouTube. Beyoncé came across the video and instantly signed them to her label, Parkwood Entertainment, while also becoming their mentor. Alongside opening for Beyoncé & JAY-Z and performing for Michelle Obama, the sister duo has just released their debut album, The Kids Are Alright. Just last year, the sisters both joined the cast of grown-ish, starring Yara Shahidi, on Freeform network playing college track-star twins. Now, it’s time for Halle’s chance to shine on the big screen and become Disney’s newest princess.

Despite Halle’s talent, the news of Disney’s casting faced some backlash. Users on social media disagreed with the casting decision. Some objected to a black woman playing the red-headed Danish princess – Ariel is “supposed” to be a Caucasian redhead and Halle is black. Others were quick to defend Halle and accused the #NotMyAriel critics as racist, however, those same critics attempted to deflect the accusations and insist that the problem isn’t related to skin colour, but hair colour…

The original actress, Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in Disney’s two The Little Mermaid films as well as the animation series weighed in and defended Halle. During her appearance at the Florida Supercon convention she said, “I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts… No matter what we look like on the outside, no matter our race, our nation, the colour of our skin, our dialect… We really need to tell the story.” Benson further emphasizes the need for storytelling and making connections with the audience which is exactly what Disney is doing by casting a powerful woman of colour. “They want to communicate with all of us in the audience so that we can fall in love with the film again”.

Rob Marshall, the director of the adaptation, states “It was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance – plus a glorious singing voice – all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role”. Zendaya, Halle Berry, Janelle Monae, and Mariah Carey are just a few amongst many others congratulating Halle on the role.

By casting Halle Bailey as Ariel, Disney is proving that they are indeed, paving a path and showcasing more diversity than ever before. The film is expected to start production in 2020.

In the meantime, listen to Halle sing her heart out and prove why she has the true spirit of Ariel, the little mermaid, by clicking here and also on her social media profiles and YouTube channel.