Bailey has faced racist backlash ― including the hashtag #NotMyAriel ― since Disney announced her casting in the role in 2019. She is one of two Black actors to be cast as a Disney princess, the other being Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog”.
Bailey told the magazine that it’s important for Black people to see themselves in characters, and reflected on advice that Beyoncé gave her and her sister Chlöe after the R&B duo signed to Queen B’s record label Parkwood Entertainment.
“As a Black person, you just expect it and it’s not really a shock anymore,” Bailey said in response to the racism.
“When [Chlöe and I] first signed to Parkwood, B was always like: ‘I never read my comments. Don’t ever read the comments.’ Honestly, when the teaser came out, I was at the D23 Expo [the biggest Disney fan event] and I was so happy. I didn’t see any of the negativity.”
Bailey, whose role has also brought delight to young Black girls’ faces, said she was “crying all night for two days” after her loved ones sent her videos of fans’ reactions.
“It makes me feel more grateful for where I am,” Bailey said.
Bailey told E! News in November that she doesn’t feel pressure anymore about starring as the iconic mermaid character.
“I think that before I started filming, I did feel some nerves naturally because the film is so important to so many people,” said Bailey, who added that support from her friends and family has helped keep her cool through it all. “I just lean on them and I know that I just give it my 100 percent. I did my best, that’s all I can do. I’m just really grateful to see it all play out.”