Diana Huey, the first woman of color to play Ariel in a national touring production of “The Little Mermaid,” has a message for Halle Bailey.
Since being cast as the star of Disney’s live-action remake of the animated movie, Bailey, who’s black, has become a target of racist trolling. Huey, who’s Japanese American, touched on the controversy in an interview with The Wrap and offered some advice to the fellow Ariel actress.
“Keep your head up and know that it’s so much bigger than you as a single person fighting these battles,” Huey told the outlet, addressing Bailey.
“If she can stay positive and just remember, there’s more support than there is hatred. It’s an important battle to fight and she’s not alone.”
Huey also dealt with a slew of racist comments after being cast in the role of Ariel. She told WKBW in 2017 that when a photo of her wearing a red wig and mermaid tail was released, “within the first few minutes there was a very negative comment from someone in the community just like, ‘Since when is Ariel Asian? I’m not going to be seeing this anymore, keep it classic.’”
Since then, Huey’s received a great deal of love for her depiction of the role, she told The Wrap. Diversity in casting is necessary to “make the world just a more open-minded place,” she said.
“I never had one kid in 300-something shows over the course of a year say, ‘Oh, you don’t look like Ariel,’” she told the outlet. “They would see me come out of the stage door with my hair and street clothes and throw themselves at me screaming. ‘Ariel!’ when I looked like Diana.”
After Bailey’s role was announced, Disney’s channel Freeform issued a statement to critics pointing out that “Ariel .... is a mermaid.”
“She lives in an underwater kingdom in international waters and can legit swim wherever she wants,” the message read, before referencing the story’s Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. “But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish. Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black.”