Halle Bailey delighted audiences of all ages over the weekend, shattering box office records with her live-action rendition of Disney’s classic princess tale, The Little Mermaid.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bailey’s Ariel effortlessly swam to the number 5 slot in all-time highest theatrical openings over Memorial Day weekend, raking in about $118.6 million over its four-day domestic debut.
Though she’s now receiving critical acclaim for her performance as Ariel, which co-star Daveed Diggs described as “transcendent” in a recent interview with ESSENCE, Bailey was subjected to an onslaught of racist commentary and bigoted discourse when she was announced as the live-action version of the previously white animated character.
However, as Bailey told ESSENCE exclusively, she instead decided to focus on the positive reactions her casting received, especially from some of her youngest fans, who will grow up with one of their first princesses being a Black girl with long, flowing locs.
“It feels so amazing to be able to be representation for this new generation, for this big film that we’ve all known and loved for a very long time,” Bailey told ESSENCE. “Ariel has meant the world to me since I was 5 years old, so getting to reimagine her with the color of my skin is so beautiful, and I’m just grateful to be in this position.”
Despite the balks from racist sectors of the online community, Bailey’s Ariel drew out an enthusiastic multicultural audience in droves. Reports say 35% of opening weekend ticket buyers were Black, 33% were white, 23% were Latinx, and the remaining 9% were classified as Asian or other.