Halle Bailey has a lot to be thankful for right now. She’s entered into a fruitful season, as the 23-year-old singer and actress is preparing for the release of Disney’s live-action Little Mermaid film in May, which she stars in as Ariel (to the chagrin of racist trolls), another big budget movie in the release of The Color Purple musical at the end of the year, and some possible new music from her in the summer. She’s also grateful for something much smaller but nevertheless, significant — having control of her often debilitating allergies.
The star has teamed up with Zyrtec, which she calls a “saving grace,” to not only celebrate the spring season but also help others manage their allergies. The antihistamine brand has launched a “Beat the Mondays” mobile tour to give people some relief, and some important information, to aid them in bypassing the dreaded discomfort of allergies gone awry in the spring. They’re going around the country, and Bailey was along for the ride in San Diego in March. ESSENCE chatted with the starlet, whose career is blossoming along with the flowers right now, to ask her about own experiences doing battle with her allergies, why spring is her favorite season, what this year of success means to her after grinding for so long behind the scenes, and how she handles haters.
ESSENCE: What’s your favorite thing about spring?
Halle Bailey: I love that question! My favorite thing about spring is just all the amazing things that are blooming: the plants, the flowers, just the smell in the air, it’s amazing. And spring is also my favorite because my birthday is in the spring.
Do you have big plans for your birthday?
You know, I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. I think I want to go somewhere warm though. I think I want to go somewhere warm and tropical but I’m still figuring it out.
Obviously something you don’t love about spring is allergies. What have been your experiences with that and how does Zyrtec help?
My experience with my allergies started when I was very young. I’m from Georgia, so the climate in Georgia is really humid. I didn’t really notice my allergies until I moved to LA where it’s very dry and the climate is a lot worse; just figuring out how to navigate how to take care of myself on days like this when your schedule is back to back and it may be cold and rainy outside. Even this morning, I can hear myself. I’m a little bit scratchy and my nose is kind of stuffed up, things like that.
So Zyrtec has always been there for me in ways so I can just clear myself, feel clean and clear and really, really good. I’m just so happy to partner with them. They’re doing something really fun called Beat the Mondays Tour where there are these amazing pop-ups for your allergies where you go and get educated and you figure out what to do, get coupons and just have fun. It’s been a really nice journey, just getting to know what works for my body and Zyrtec has always been there.
Have you ever had any experiences where your allergies gave you trouble while you were performing?
Absolutely. One particular experience was Coachella. I had a Coachella performance with my sister and I didn’t realize how dusty it was going to be. That’s very naive of me, I know. I knew we were going to be in a desert but I didn’t know it was going to be that bad. My allergies flared up, my sinuses were all messed up and I had to sing. Of course, Zyrtec came to the rescue but that was something I had to navigate and that I still have to navigate on a day-to-day basis. It really depends on the climate and where I’m at and how my body reacts. So, that was definitely one where I was like, “Whoa this dust is not going to throw me off my game today.”
What plans do you have for the spring since it’s one of your favorite times of the year?
My birthday and then I might just go to Coachella to have fun. But Little Mermaid comes out in May, which I’m very excited for. It’s been a long, long wait for that. This summer hopefully there will be some new music from me, which I’m really excited about. And then The Color Purple comes out in December, so this has been a really good time for me. I’m really happy to see some of the projects I’ve been working on come out because the past few years have been the work, work, work and not really seeing the fruits of my labor. So getting to see it all roll out, it’s beautiful.
How has it been having all of these opportunities and seeing them come to fruition but doing it all solo? You and Chloe [Bailey] have obviously done a lot of things together so what has it been like?
It’s been really good. It’s been really hectic. I miss my sister all the time. She’s like my mom. She’s another mom to me. I’m so happy whenever I get to see her. The other night we had a girls night. We go to the events together now. It’s really hectic for the both of us so we’re just encouraging each other like, “Go go! I know you’re tired but you’re killing it.” We’re just rooting each other on because it’s intense sometimes.
I know you want to travel for your birthday. What’s a place that when you think of it, it brings you joy? Maybe a favorite destination?
My favorite destination would be the Maldives that I’ve been to. It was amazing. I went last year and I want to go back so bad. I felt like I was just on this beautiful alien planet where nothing existed but white sands and beautiful beaches.
So where do you want to go this year?
There was Jamaica, the Bahamas…maybe somewhere closer but hot hot. I’m still trying to figure it out.
And how does it feel to have your own doll, the Ariel doll, and to take on such an iconic role? It holds a lot of weight.
It’s absolutely amazing. It feels very surreal to have my own doll and just be in this position of getting to play Ariel. It really is healing to the little girl in me because I still feel like I’m five years old sometimes navigating life like, “Wow, this is all so new.” So it’s really just an honor and when I saw the doll for the first time I just burst into tears in the meeting. It’s really this out-of-body thing where you see yourself but you’re also like, this is way bigger than me and I know that it’s for a reason. All the other Black and brown babies get to see themselves in a role like this and know that they’re special, they’re worthy, meant to be here and meant to be in roles like that. It shouldn’t be a surprise or a shock to anyone when a minority or Black woman gets a big role like this. It shouldn’t be out of the normal anymore and I hope that for the future it’s not. I’m just really grateful. I feel really honored and this is a surreal time for me.
So how do you protect your peace when dealing with critics online?
I definitely just surround myself with my family and friends who love me the most and honestly just staying grounded through it all. I find that when I shut off my phone, all off that noise, I realize it doesn’t exist. We’re all here for a greater reason and a greater purpose. I am just living in the moment and I have to just ground myself and surround myself with the people who love me the most and keep me on the right track. Then I don’t hear any of the negativity.