It’s the movie everyone is talking about and it’s largely thanks to the 23-year-old leading lady with a stunning voice. The star of Disney’s live action remake of The Little Mermaid sits down with marie claire Australia to talk representation, taking on a classic and her pal Beyonce.
Marie Claire: You are staring as Ariel in the remake of The Little Mermaid. Can you take me back to the moment when you found out the role was yours?
Halle Bailey: I was overjoyed! I was so excited. I felt like I was living in a dream. I have loved this movie ever since I was young, and getting to be such a big part of this is really a blessing.
MC: Many little girls dream of being a Disney princess, and now you are one. What does that mean to you?
HB: It truly means the world. I get to not only reinvent this character, but I also show other young Black and brown kids that we can be anything we want to be. And we deserve to be in these spaces, too. It’s beautiful.
MC: When the casting of Ariel was announced, there were some ugly corners of the internet that met the news with racism. #notmyariel was trending, simply because some people refused to accept an Ariel who had skin that was a different colour to the animated Ariel. Did you anticipate it? And how did you cope with it?
HB: I definitely knew that it would be a conversation. But I didn’t really take it to heart. Sometimes in this world, we are just gonna have to deal with things like that. I surround myself with family and friends who lift me up. At the end of the day, people are going to comment on it, because that’s just the way of the world today. I focused on staying positive throughout all of that.
MC: How far do you think we are from it not being a focal point or something people make such a big deal of?
HB: I really do hope that in the near future, maybe like five or 10 years from now, it won’t even be a thing. It won’t even be a conversation, and it certainly won’t be a shocker.
MC: How did you find your own version of Ariel?
HB: When it came to studying the role and trying to prepare for her, I took inspiration from Ariel’s song “Part of Your World”. When you listen to the lyrics, it’s a desperate cry for help. She’s voicing everything she wants for herself and her future. I found out everything I needed to know about who she was as a person by dissecting the lyrics and exploring what those things mean and why they’re so important to her.
MC: Jodi Benson, who voiced the original Ariel, has also been very vocal in her support for you.
HB: Jodi Benson is an incredible human being. She’s such a genuine spirit – so kind and warm. I was so pleased to meet her because, well, she’s iconic. Her version of Ariel is the one that lives in all of our hearts. She is Ariel. I was just so happy to receive the baton pass from her – and to know we’re both from Atlanta, Georgia, we’re both Southern girls. We both have a very strong faith. I was just really grateful that she was so gracious and welcoming of me into the mermaid world.
MC: What was it like working with Melissa McCarthy, who plays Ursula?
HB: Wow, Melissa McCarthy is truly a force of nature. I had been a fan of her for such a long time and learning that she was going to be a part of this film was really exciting for me. She taught me a lot about myself and how to navigate being on set and speaking up for myself. I think people are going to be really excited to see her version of Ursula because she truly killed it.
MC: Your background is in music, you shot to fame with your sister Chloe and have had a successful music career together as Chloe x Halle. What was it like doing such a big project on your own. Did you feel like you were missing your other half?
HB: Yeah, absolutely. I’m the baby sister, so I look to her for everything. If it wasn’t for Chloe, I don’t think I’d be in entertainment at all. She was the force that led us both here. But it’s been really beautiful for both of us to work on individual projects, because of the growth and self-development you have. I’m grateful to know my sister is always there to support me. I’m lucky to have her in my life.
MC: Beyoncé has been a mentor to you and your sister. What have you learnt from her?
HB: Recently I have been looking to her for example in the way she lives life. First of all, she’s such a humble person. She has a golden heart. She’s so talented and her work ethic is like no-one else’s. As an artist, I look to mirror those qualities, because that’s what gets you far.
MC: You’ll be flat out with press for The Little Mermaid, but will we see more from you this year?
HB:Oh, yes. Since I’ve wrapped filming, I’ve been working on my own music, and my sister and I will be working on music together. With films, I have The Color Purple coming out around Christmas, which I’m extremely proud of and excited for everyone to see. I feel really optimistic about the future and grateful that I get to do what I love.
The Little Mermaid is in cinemas from May 25.