Halle Bailey Receives Advice From Diana Huey, The First Non-White Ariel In ‘The Little Mermaid’

Halle Bailey of Chloe x Halle performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Halle Bailey has the support of Diana Huey as the young actress prepares for her role as Ariel in the live-action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

The singer and one-half of the group ChloeXHalle was announced as the studio’s pick for the iconic mermaid this past week. The selection makes Bailey the first black actress to portray Ariel on the big screen.

While Bailey’s role is historic, the actress, 19, isn’t the first person of color to take on the role. According to The Wrap, Huey became the first Japanese American actress to play the red-headed mermaid on stage. The actress joined the national touring production of the Broadway show of the same name back in 2017. Of her on-screen successor, Huey said that Bailey will have to push through the criticism that will come her way by taking on the classic role.

“Keep your head up and know that it’s so much bigger than you as a single person fighting these battles,” Huey said. “If she can stay positive and just remember, there’s more support than there is hatred. It’s an important battle to fight and she’s not alone.”

Huey also recalls that while she did face some backlash for her role as Ariel, most of the critiques weren’t from the children in the audience. The actress said that, while playing Ariel in multiple theaters all over the world, she received a plethora of support from the younger people who came to see the show. She said that, after the show, children would come in droves to hug her and believed that she was the character she portrayed on stage.

Huey’s advice for Bailey comes around the same time the Grown-ish star was heavily criticized by white fans of the 1989 cartoon film. According to The Sun, many people took to Twitter to express their distaste for the fact that Ariel wouldn’t be portrayed as a red-headed, white mermaid with blue eyes.

The Inquisitr reported that many social media users took to their pages to create the hashtag #NotMyAriel. Through the hashtag, many accounts (some who were proven to be fake) expressed how Bailey’s current look doesn’t fit the appearance of the Disney classic, which many, like writer Roxanne Gay, quickly debunked, noting that Ariel isn’t a human, but a mermaid.

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Huey said that during her run as Ariel, she faced the same remarks. However, through the support of others, she continued to tell the story on stage night after night.

“It’s a story about a character who wants to find where she belongs and fit in and why she doesn’t feel comfortable where she is… that’s everyone’s story,” Huey said. It’s a great way to tell a fairly simple story and make a bigger statement, and now we’re having a bigger conversation, and why not? And she’s a mermaid, she’s half fish!”