Halle Bailey says her grandparents helped her overcome 'The Little Mermaid' casting backlash

Bailey said her grandparents offered their "words of encouragement."

BySweenie Saint-Vil via via logo
August 11, 2022, 10:00 AM

Halle Bailey is opening up about her barrier-breaking role as Ariel in Disney's forthcoming live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid."

News of a Black actress playing the lead role was initially met with some backlash, but Bailey pushed through. The "Grown-ish" star recently revealed what helped her cut through the negativity at the time: understanding the importance of representation.

"I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they're special, and that they should be a princess in every single way," she told Variety. "There's no reason that they shouldn't be. That reassurance was something that I needed."

Bailey also pondered what it would have felt for her younger self if the cartoon Ariel in Disney's 1989 animated classic had been depicted as someone who looked like her.

"What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything," she reflected. "Things that seem so small to everyone else, it's so big to us."

Further reassurance came from her grandparents, who shared with her how they had both endured racism and discrimination throughout their lives.

PHOTO: Halle Bailey attends the 2022 Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on April 9, 2022 in Santa Monica, Calif.
Halle Bailey attends the 2022 Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on April 9, 2022 in Santa Monica, Calif.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images, FILE

"It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, 'You don't understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you,'" she recalled them saying.

Bailey is the second Black actor to be crowned a Disney princess. The first was Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Tiana in 2009's "The Princess and the Frog."

Disney's live-action version of "The Little Mermaid" is set to premiere in theaters next summer.

The film also stars Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder and Awkwafina as Scuttle.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News and "Good Morning America."

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