Everywhere Halle Bailey goes these days, little girls are running up to her for hugs. They don’t know her as one-half of the highly successful rhythm and blues duo Chloe x Halle, they just know that her face is on the poster for the newly released “The Little Mermaid.”
To them, she’s a princess and they simply want to be near her. This is a complete 180 degree turnaround to the online trolls that moaned when it was announced that the 23-year-old had won the coveted role.
Director Rob Marshall stated on Bailey’s casting, “When I chose Halle for the role, it was literally because she was the best person for the role.”
In spite of the complaints that a young African American girl from Atlanta, Georgia, couldn’t be Ariel, critics and children alike agree that she is the best thing about this reinvention of a classic tale.
Bailey sat down on a busy press day to share what it was like becoming a real life Disney princess. The young woman, who has had the good fortune to be mentored by Beyoncé, genuinely is feeling grateful for the opportunity to change the narrative that embodies a Disney princess.
She was asked how it felt to have not only young fans who are ecstatic but also older women who have longed for this time to celebrate her. “I feel proud that not just kids but moms are proud and it fills me up with so much joy hearing those words. I am just thankful to them.”
She also shared what it was like to live in the wonderful world of Disney, even for a little while.
“What I liked best about the film’s make-believe universe was having to imagine the environment around us while we were filming because I did most of my work on the blue screen by myself,” she explain. “They fed Sebastian’s and Flounder’s dialogue over an earpiece. It was fantastic to watch how everything came together later.”
One of the lessons from “The Little Mermaid” is that it’s okay to want something different for yourself than what your family expects of you. “I feel like I learned a lot from Ariel,” she said of how this experience influenced her.
“I auditioned for the job when I was 18-years-old, and I became 23 this year. We wrapped up two years ago, when I was 21. It definitely was a changing experience for me during those crucial years of development and growth as one enters womanhood. I was a lot more nervous and unsure of myself at the start of the film compared to the wrap day when I felt a lot stronger and confident due to what Ariel taught me.
“It’s okay to have huge dreams and desires for oneself,” she adds. “Ariel didn’t let fear stop her from pursuing her dreams; those are things that I’ve tried to hold on to from her spirit that she’s given to me.”
Regardless of how one thinks about a classic being reinterpreted, Bailey nailed the musical part of the film without a doubt. Despite her years of music experience, the Alan Menken score was robust and allowed her to show off her vocal range.
“It felt amazing to sing these magical songs that I’ve loved since I was a little girl,” she said. “There is this feeling of nostalgia when you hear these songs like “Under the Sea” and “Part of Your World” you’re just teleported back to being a child. The singer in me was squealing with joy because I was ready to sing these songs.”
Disney not only obtained a modernized princess in Halle Bailey, but also a talent with vocal skills to match the acting, genuinely allowing the audience to experience Disney magic.
“The Little Mermaid” released in theaters worldwide on Friday.
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