Halle Bailey Shares How Ariel In The Little Mermaid Remake Has Changed For The Better

This Ariel is not just leaving “the ocean for a boy.”

When Halle Bailey was first chosen to play Ariel in the Disney live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, it was a real moment. Not just for her as a young actress, but also for young Black and brown kids who were about to see themselves represented as an iconic Disney princess. Now, as the theatrical release to The Little Mermaid draws nearer, Bailey has opened up about how Disney has updated this version. And this mermaid isn’t just about finding her prince... she’s all about finding herself.

In a new interview with Edition, Bailey opened up about becoming Ariel for The Little Mermaid, a role that she first auditioned for at 18 years old. “I feel like I learned so much through her. I auditioned when I was 18, got the role when I was 19, and I turn 23 this year,” the singer said. “So I genuinely feel like [Ariel’s] helped me grow up.”

After all of this time working on becoming Ariel, Bailey knows a little something about how this new version measures up to the original. And it seems Disney has made some serious efforts to correct some of the issues that have been criticized about the 1994 version of the film, including some sexism.

“I’m really excited for my version of the film because we’ve definitely changed that perspective of just her wanting to leave the ocean for a boy,” she told Edition. “It’s way bigger than that. It’s about herself, her purpose, her freedom, her life and what she wants.”

One example of this shift is when Ariel sings “Part of Your World.” In this version of the film, she sings the song before rescuing Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from drowning in a shipwreck. In other words, she’s ready to leave her ocean life behind for her own reasons, not simply because she fell in love. It’s an important distinction for Bailey, who told Edition, “As women we are amazing, we are independent, we are modern, we are everything and above. And I’m glad that Disney is updating some of those themes.”

While we have to wait to see how exactly this version of The Little Mermaid has been updated, the effect Bailey’s version of Ariel has on people is already pretty touching. Like when Bailey took a flight last November and received a beautiful note she shared with her social media followers that read, “Miss Bailey, it is an honor to have you on board today. Thank you for being an inspiration to little brown girls all over the world, like we were a few years ago.” The pilot ended the note by signing, “Jess O, your young Latina female Delta Pilot.”

The Little Mermaid might be different this time around, but it certainly sounds like the best kind of different.

The Little Mermaid premieres in theaters on May 26.