‘The Little Mermaid’s Director Encouraged Halle Bailey to Incorporate Her Locs Into Ariel’s Character

Disney‘s upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid stars singer Halle Bailey as the iconic character of Ariel. But Halle’s casting has been met with backlash from many who felt that her being Black or wearing locs detracted from the fantasy of a mermaid. When looking back on the filming of the movie, she credited the movie’s director, Rob Marshall, with helping her embrace herself in the Ariel role.

Halle Bailey, star of 'The Little Mermaid', wearing red
Halle Bailey | Corey Nickols/Getty Images for IMDb

Halle Bailey stars in the live-action ‘Little Mermaid’

The Little Mermaid is the latest beloved Disney movie to get a live-action version, following the likes of The Lion King, Mulan, and Aladdin in recent years. The movie is scheduled to hit theaters May 26, 2023, and it’s already caused massive buzz nearly a year away from its release.

The project first faced criticism when Halle was announced as the singer who would take on the iconic role of Ariel. Many felt that the 1989 animated version of the film should be honored by having a white actor with fire-engine-red straight hair play Ariel, rather than a Black actor with locs like Halle.

The ‘Little Mermaid’ director encouraged Halle to wear her locs

In September 2022, a teaser for the upcoming film showed Halle singing the iconic song from the movie, “Part of Your World.” Many were thrilled — and upset — to see her with dark red locs, rather than straight hair.

When filming the movie, Halle herself got some encouragement to wear her natural hair from the film’s director, Rob Marshall. She opened up about the process in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“With Rob, he’s so amazing at just saying, ‘I see you and I want to bring you into the character,’ she said. “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.”

Halle went on to speak about how much the movie changed her as a singer, as an actor, and as a person. “I really felt like I got strong, mentally and physically,” she said. “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.”

RELATED: ‘The Little Mermaid’: Melissa McCarthy Burst Into Tears Hearing Halle Bailey Sing For the First Time

Halle has had the support of her sister Chlöe

One of Halle’s many supporters has been her sister, Chlöe Bailey. Halle has spent the time since Chlöe x Halle released their 2020 album Ungodly Hour filming The Little Mermaid, while Chlöe launched her career as a solo singer in 2021.

When it comes to The Little Mermaid, Chlöe couldn’t be happier of her sister. “I am beyond proud to be your sister,” Chlöe said in an Instagram Story after the teaser for The Little Mermaid was released. “The world gets to see what I’ve always seen since we were little girls. My Ariel.”

RELATED: Halle Bailey Expertly Dodged Questions About Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ and Its Soundtrack