One of the most highly-anticipated movies of the summer season, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, stars Halle Bailey as Ariel. Despite early racial commentary and attempts to diminish Bailey’s skill–the film is on track to be a major hit.
In a new cover story for Ebony, the starlet talked about the importance of representation, including showing her natural locs in the film.
“There was a time when we’d barely see locs—and now we have a Disney princess with them, which has never happened before,” she told Ebony. “It was super important for me to have my natural hair in this film. I was really grateful to [director] Rob Marshall because he wanted to keep my locs. It’s always important to have somebody to cosign.”
“I’ve had my locs since I was 5, so they’re a huge part of who I am,” she said. “We need to be able to see ourselves, we need to be able to see our hair on big screens like this, so that we know that it’s beautiful and more than acceptable.”
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She also acknowledged the importance of representation and what it means to have a live-action, Black Disney princess.
“I remember [Brandy’s Cinderella] was one of the first [films] I saw with a Black princess,” she said. “It was so monumental. It changes your whole perspective as a young Black woman, how you feel about yourself, what you think you can do, and the possibilities the world has to offer. She’s the blueprint for all of the Black princesses to come.”
The Little Mermaid isn’t Bailey’s only big role in an upcoming highly-anticipated film. She is also playing Nettie in the remake of The Color Purple produced by Oprah Winfrey.
“I am so excited to be playing young Nettie in The Color Purple,” she told Ebony. “This film has meant a lot to me for a very long time—it’s a Black family staple. I also got a chance to write an original song for the film. It’s been really cool to incorporate my artistry into this new world of acting. I’m just so grateful to be a part of the film and to be on set with legends and people I’m such fans of, like Fantasia and Taraji P. Henson. I cannot wait for people to see it. I think they’ll love it.”
Disney’s The Little Mermaid hits theaters May 26 and The Color Purple is slated for a December release.