Halle Bailey got some major props from the OG Ariel over the weekend when Jodi Benson said she loved the singer’s performance in the title role in the upcoming live-action reboot of Disney’s Little Mermaid. “Halle, you were absolutely amazing!” Benson wrote in an Instagram Story alongside a pic of Bailey at this weekend’s Disney D23 Expo.
“I’m SO proud of you & your beautiful performance as Ariel,” she added. “It was so wonderful to celebrate with your family here at #d23expo and to the brilliant director, Rob Marshall… I’m so thankful for our friendship of over 35 years. Thank you for creating such a stunning film!!”
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Bailey, 22, was blown away by the kind words, responding, “Thank you so much… this means the world to me coming from you! You made Ariel magical for us.” Benson, 60, was the voice of Ariel in the 1989 animated original and her high praise came after Disney debuted footage of Bailey singing the mermaid’s signature song, “Part of Your World,” at D23.
One half of R&B sibling duo Chloe x Halle, Bailey recently spoke about the importance of representation and being the first Black actress to tackle the role of Ariel. “I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special, and that they should be a princess in every single way,” Bailey said in an interview with Variety. “There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be. That reassurance was something that I needed.” After listening to her grandparents share their memories of racism and discrimination, Bailey took their inspiration to heart as she prepped for the potentially career-making film role.
“It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you,’” she said they told her. The encouragement was even more important in the wake of some backlash from trolls, who launched the #NotMyAriel hashtag to protest the idea of a Black mermaid princess.
“[Halle] sings that moment up an octave from the original,” Marshall said of the singer’s performance of “Part of Your World” in the film. “It’s the most chilling, and the most thrilling, film moment because it crystallizes not just her incredible vocal ability but the emotional passion she has in singing it.” The movie is slated to open in May 2023.