Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

Halle Bailey & the Importance of Representation in ‘The Little Mermaid’

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

On September 9th, Disney dropped the first official teaser trailer for the upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid on YouTube. Since then, the video — with over 22 million views — has continued to command the public’s attention.

The trailer features the first look of 22-year-old Halle Bailey, part of the musical duo Chloe x Halle, as Ariel. Halle is a talented five-time Grammy nominee. But the casting of a Black woman has caused a massive divide online.

Global reaction

Many parents of young Black girls recorded their child’s reaction to watching the trailer for the first time. In the heartwarming compilation below, girls say with joy, “She’s Brown like me!”, “She looks like me!”, and “Mom, it’s like my hair!”

It’s clear that representation does matter— and the excited, emotional reaction of the kids says enough about pop culture representation as it currently stands. 

On the negative side, many Internet trolls are blasting the new trailer. They claim that Ariel must be portrayed by a white actress, even though race has absolutely nothing to do with Ariel’s cartoon mermaid character. And if we’re bringing in science, it would be more likely for mermaids to have darker skin than fair skin.

importance of representation

On September 20th, Entertainment Weekly released an interview with Halle Berry about the role. Halle discussed the importance and beauty of putting her own take into Ariel, saying, “Incorporating my locs into the red hair is something that was really special to me… I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to take the essence of me and kind of mix the two.”

Halle continued to talk about how the new film will be different from previous ones. She said, “I hope that people take away joy, love, and the amazing new story that we’ve created of Ariel where it’s not just a story about her falling in love, and loving a boy, and wanting the above world — it’s more about what she sees for herself, and her future, and her passion.”

Check out the full interview below!


The live-action The Little Mermaid is set to be a groundbreaking film! Premiering in theaters on May 26, 2023, the film will feature Melissa McCarthy, Simone Ashley, Lin Manuel-Miranda— and the first Black woman to portray Ariel!

If the reaction of young girls and Halle’s devotion to the role is any indication, I’m sure the movie will cement itself into cinematic history.

This article is part of a series, #FeministFriday, where Chloe Hummel seeks to highlight standout feminists making a difference in the world right now. Stay tuned!

Chloé Hummel was the 2023-2024 President and Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus UConn, after previously serving as Vice President and Contributing Writer. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in May 2024 with a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is also a certified yoga instructor.