Disney live-action adaptations are dominating big screens. Mulan’s different approach to the remake has recently caught headlines. The Little Mermaid is also getting a lot of buzz, particularly with the unexpected casting. Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, for example, drew the attention of fans. But a bigger controversy surrounds their choice for lead role: 19-year-old Halle Bailey.
Disney’s announcement had fans either loving or hating the decision. On one hand, people say she doesn’t look like the fair-skinned, redheaded Ariel from the original 1989 animated film. The opposite side however lauds the inspired choice, and claim it’s about time Black princesses are put in the spotlight.
We’re pretty sure Disney knew the strong reactions their casting would elicit. So why make such a bold move? Here we list some of the reasons why we think Disney pushed nonetheless, convinced that Halle is the perfect Ariel.
We all know a beautiful voice is a big part of Ariel’s character, as she used it to trade her tail for human legs. No question, Halle Bailey fits the bill, as she is actually one half of R&B duo Chloe x Halle. Together, she and her older sister Chloe were thrust in the limelight ever since their YouTube cover of Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts.” It’s obvious that they love Beyoncé. It turns out, the feeling is mutual. Apparently, Queen B was so impressed by their cover, they were among the first artists signed to Bey’s record label, Parkwood Entertainment. According to The Verge, “She signed both women to her label after discovering their videos, and they’re often described as Queen Bey’s prodigies.”
The sisters have since opened for Beyoncé during the European leg of her “Formation” world tour as well as for her and Jay-Z’s“On The Road II” stadium tour. They also made appearances in Bey’s “All Night Long” music video.
Since their YouTube cover, the pair have since performed worldwide and released original music. Their works were even featured in movies such as A Wrinkle in Time starring Oprah. This year, they sang “America the Beautiful” at the Superbowl and performed at the Grammys as well. The pair have also earned two Grammy nominations, including “Best New Artist.”
Of course, a good voice doesn’t just cut it. She must be a capable actress too. Well, Halle checks that requirement too. According to Elle, “Her first role was alongside Queen Latifah in the 2006 film Last Holiday.”
In addition, she and her sister Chloe also both starred in the Freeform comedy Grown-ish, a spin-off of Black-ish.
“After an extensive search, 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,” the film’s director Rob Marshall said in a statement.
We certainly agree with him. Apart from the qualities we mentioned above, Halle also uses her social platform to support causes she believes in. This includes gun control, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and abortion rights. She also attended the women’s march so you know she’s all about women empowerment. We stan a princess with a cause.
If these failed to convince you that Halle’s perfect as Ariel, maybe Freefom’s statement might. Siding with supportive stars like Zendaya, Halle Berry, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mariah Carey, and Keke Palmer, the network fiercely defended Bailey on Instagram. “Yes. The original author of The Little Mermaid was Danish. Ariel…is a mermaid. She lives in an underwater kingdom in international waters and can legit swim wherever she wants,” Freeform wrote. “But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish. Danish mermaids can be Black because Danish *people* can be Black. Ariel can sneak up to the surface at any time with her pals Scuttle and the *ahem* Jamaican crab Sebastian (sorry, Flounder!) and keep that bronze base tight. Black Danish people, and this mer-folk, can also *genetically* (!!!) have red hair.”
“But spoiler alert—bring it back to the top—the character of Ariel is a work of fiction,” they added. “So after all this is said and done, and you still cannot get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly-talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey is anything other than the INSPIRED casting that it is because she ‘doesn’t look like the cartoon one,’ oh boy, do I have some news for you…about you.”