I want to be part of that world where The Little Mermaid is Black

The new Ariel is going to be played by a black actress, and this is why it matters.

By Natalie Harmsen

I want to be part of that world where The Little Mermaid is Black

Photo: Left:Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Essence Right: Screenshot of Ariel in the 1989 version of "The Little Mermaid"

Unless you've been living under a rock (maybe even one that's “Under the Sea”), you've seen the headlines: Disney has cast songstress Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid live action remake. And she's a bit different from the Ariel you remember from the animated version, in that she happens to be Black.

Tons of celebrities shared their support for the Grammy-nominated singer—she’s one half of the sister duo Chloe x Halle—with many saying she’s the perfect choice:

The director, Rob Marshall, also had nothing but praise for the young star: "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."

Take a look below to see how amazingly talented she is:

If her vocals weren't enough to blow you away, Bailey is also no stranger to acting—she regularly stars on the show Grown-ish alongside her sister. But this will be her feature film debut.

I personally could not be more thrilled for Bailey and for there to finally be a Black Ariel. It’s a win for people of colour and will allow Black girls to point to her on screen and excitedly say, “She looks like me.” That's something I wasn't able to do as a kid.

Growing up, I certainly never saw myself represented when watching Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Beauty and the Beast or Snow White. Disney has a long history of lacking diversity: It released more than 50 animated films between 1937-2009 before finally giving us our first black princess with Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. That was a decade ago, and beyond overdue; we are worthy of being princesses too! Young Black girls had to watch an entire catalogue of movies, never seeing themselves, for more than 70 years. This movie is affirmation that we matter and we are talented enough.

We know it's important for girls to have strong role models. But it's equally important that the people and princesses they look up to, also look like them.

Although most reactions to the casting have been positive, the decision is not without some controversy. Several Twitter users are less than ecstatic about a Black Ariel:

Yes, the original 1989 Little Mermaid film is based on a Danish fairy tale, but some commentors seem to have forgotten Disney has whitewashed numerous film roles meant for people of colour, from the casting in Prince of Persia to The Lone Ranger. 

For those masking their racism by arguing “she doesn’t look like Ariel,” it would be good to remember: Mermaids aren’t real. We're talking about a half-fish. She can literally be any colour. In fact, as several Twitter users hilariously pointed out, her being Black actually makes more sense:

The new movie is set for release in 2020 and will feature the iconic tracks from the animated classic, as well as new songs by “Hamilton” creator and Moana music-maker Lin-Manuel Miranda. Prepare to sing along!

And if you're someone throwing a tantrum because this isn't the Ariel you wanted, please take a good hard look at yourself. There are more than enough white princesses. We Black women only have Tiana. If you're still mad, that's fine. Just don't go see it. You'll be one less person I have to share my popcorn with when I'm at the movie theatre.

This article was originally published on Jul 04, 2019