Halle Bailey

Halle Bailey embodied a dream for many Black girls and women. She became a live-action Disney princess on screen, one of the most popular, Ariel. The year prior, H.E.R. took on the role of Belle in the Beauty and the Beast special celebrating the movie's 30th anniversary. And before that, it had been 25 years since the last time that happened on-screen when Brandy stepped into Cinderella's glass slipper in 1997. It is imperative that we all see individuals who look like us in media not only in contemporary stories but fantasy as well. For over 2 hours, in a story rich with messages about going after what you want and being open to learning and exploring the lives and cultures of those outside of your own, we got to fall in love with Halle's Ariel just like we did with the original animated princess. Her work is yet another example of more doors opening for Black actors in the fantasy genre. It's a part of a long tradition of pushing for inclusion in spite of the inevitable pushback.
- Sabrina Reed
Hidden Remote Associate Editor

How they're making a difference in equity and inclusion

The success of The Little Mermaid (2023) opened the door for a new animated series for young people with an Ariel that is Black just like the version of the character Halle brought to life for the big screen. Because it is an educational program, Disney Junior's Ariel will further the work done in the live-action to introduce a wider audience to Black people in fantasy whilst also embodying the fun and life lessons series for young children to focus on. It's set to premiere in 2024 and is centered around an 8 year old Ariel's curiosity and adventures in a Caribbean-inspired Atlantica. Had Halle's casting and then her performance not struck such a strong chord with audiences, this show likely wouldn't have been greenlit. There was a clear, inarguable desire to see more Black actresses and characters in lead roles in genre fiction. There always has been. But in the age of social media, video sharing and viral posts made it abundantly apparent that that desire extends to media specifically geared toward children as well.

What we’ll remember about this fandom a decade from now

It all comes back to joy. Watching the teaser for the first time and meeting Halle's Ariel reverberated through the Internet like a shockwave. She became the talk of the country due to the response and impact of that first look at this version of The Little Mermaid. The outpouring of love steadily eclipsed the backlash over her race because people rallied to ensure this moment of magic would not be tarnished. If you've seen the movie, you know it is undeniable that Halle captured Ariel's essence. 2023 was an incredible year for women in entertainment and media, and Halle was a standout. For those of us who had the opportunity to experience this moment in time, it won't ever be forgotten.