‘Little Mermaid’ star Halle Bailey says bringing her locs to Ariel’s hair was ‘really special’

Singer and actress Halle Bailey says it was “a beautiful experience” getting to bring “the essence of me” to the character of Ariel in Disney’s live-action, CG-animated The Little Mermaid. That included her hair locs.

Bailey sat down with EW at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif. to discuss her role after a first look was revealed at the fan convention. She says director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) wanted her to incorporate aspects of herself into the role, such as red locs to complement her own hair.


“With Rob, he’s so amazing and just saying, ‘I see you and I want to bring you into the character,'” Bailey, 22, says. “So it was a beautiful thing. My hair, for example — incorporating my locs into the red hair was something that was really special to me. The outfit, the fins, everything. It’s just amazing. I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to take the essence of me and mix the two.”

Footage of Bailey in The Little Mermaid was screened during a Walt Disney Pictures presentation at the D23 Expo earlier this month. The reveal, including a trailer, featured Bailey’s Ariel singing her own rendition of the classic song “Part of Your World.”

The unveiling of Bailey in character has already made an impression on young Black girls as parents continue to share video reactions on social media of their children watching the trailer for the first time. The footage on YouTube has been viewed 21.5 million times since it dropped.

“We all yearn for something greater,” Bailey says, explaining why viewers resonate with Ariel. “We all relate to feeling like we want something better for ourselves, and I think the strength in her is that she goes for it. She goes after what she wants and what she sees for herself, and she knows she should be somewhere else. I just admire that strength of hers, and was really trying to play that in this version.”

She adds that the film brings a “new story” to The Little Mermaid, one that’s not just about “falling in love and wanting a boy and wanting the above world.”

“It’s more about what [Ariel] sees for herself and her future and her passion,” she says.

The Little Mermaid, set to hit theaters May 26, 2023, also stars Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Javier Bardem as Triton, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, and Awkwafina as Scuttle. The film will feature classic songs from the original soundtrack, plus four new songs written by original composer Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“I really felt like I got strong, mentally and physically,” Bailey remarks, “and I think it was a really good thing for me to do, just in terms of developing into a woman and myself, and knowing myself more. I’m more sure of myself after the filming experience, for sure.”

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