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The Little Mermaid star Halle Bailey wasn't surprised by racist casting backlash: 'As a Black person, you just expect it'

The racist backlash to a Black woman being cast as Ariel in Disney's live-action The Little Mermaid came as no surprise to star Halle Bailey. 

The actress and singer opened up to The Face about the online vitriol that came after it was announced that she would play Ariel in the upcoming remake. 

"As a Black person, you just expect it and it's not really a shock anymore," she said. 

The casting was announced in 2019, quickly sparking a #NotMyAriel hashtag used by those who objected to Ariel not being white, and the film's first trailer was flooded with dislikes. Bailey, who performs with her sister in the R&B duo Chloe x Halle, told The Face that she learned from Beyoncé "don't ever read the comments," noting she was "so happy" when the film's trailer premiered at the D23 Expo in 2022 and "didn't see any of the negativity." 

Bailey also said she was "crying all night for two days" while watching TikTok videos showing young Black girls reacting to the trailer with delight, as they were blown away to see an Ariel that looked like them. "It makes me feel more grateful for where I am," Bailey said, also telling the outlet, "It's so important for us to see ourselves."

Rob Marshall, the director of the Little Mermaid remake, previously told Entertainment Weekly that when casting Ariel, he was looking for someone who could be "incredibly strong, passionate, beautiful, smart, clever." But he stressed that there was "no agenda" in the casting, as "we saw everybody and every ethnicity" for the part.

"We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period," Marshall said. "The end."