Halle Bailey speaks about the importance of keeping her locs while playing Ariel in The Little Mermaid

Halle Bailey has explained why it was important to her to ensure her portrayal of Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid included her locs.

The singer-turned-actor stars in the forthcoming film as the red-haired mermaid Ariel, alongside Melissa McCarthy as the villainous Ursula and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric.

Bailey, who wears her hair in locs or “dreads”, said the producers were keen to stay true to her Black heritage through the character.

Speaking to Glamour magazine, she said: “[Ariel still] has red hair, because that’s a very iconic part of her, but I really did admire the fact that because I’m a Black woman and I have locs, [the producers] wanted to incorporate that into Ariel’s look.”

The 23-year-old, who is known for being one-half of the R&B duo Chloe x Halle with her sister Chloe Bailey, added: “My locs are so important to me. I’ve had them since I was five.

“I always think about what life would be like if I combed out my locs but I’ve never had my straight hair at all.”

Bailey is the magazine’s cover star this month. The Little Mermaid is set to premiere in the UK on Friday 26 May.

Elsewhere in the interview, Bailey said that watching the original 1990 Disney film as a young girl inspired her to pick up swimming.

“I remember Ariel being the reason I wanted to swim,” she said. “When I saw her, [I was] like, ‘She’s so beautiful; I wanted to be a mermaid too’.”

 (Getty Images for Disney)
(Getty Images for Disney)

The singer said that the colour of Ariel’s skin did not faze her, adding: “She didn’t look like me, but I was OK with that because it was what I was used to at the time.”

However, seeing the response from other young Black girls to her portrayal as Ariel has been moving.

Bailey said watching videos of them reacting to her made her “sob uncontrollably”. “The fact that these babies are looking at me and feeling the emotions that they’re feeling is a really humbling, beautiful thing.”

However, there have also been negative reactions to Bailey’s casting in the film and she received “hateful and racist” messages from people who complained that she didn’t look like Disney’s original version.

She told Edition magazine earlier this year that seeing that reaction was “definitely a shock”.

In another interview with Variety magazine, Bailey said: “I feel like I’m dreaming and I’m just grateful and I don’t pay attention to the negativity.

“I just feel like this role was something bigger than me, and greater, and it’s going to be beautiful and I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”