The singer ― who plays Ariel in the upcoming live-action version of the beloved 1989 cartoon ― was targeted with racist backlash after the announcement that a Black actor would star as the redheaded mermaid princess.
In an interview with E! News on Tuesday, Bailey shared how she’s learned to deal with the stress of portraying such an iconic character in the Disney franchise.
“I don’t feel any pressure anymore,” the Chloe x Halle member told the outlet when asked about starring as the titular character. “I think that before I started filming, I did feel some nerves naturally because the film is so important to so many people.”
She said she was able to ward off her anxiety with the help of her close friends and family, including sister Chloe Bailey.
“I just lean on them and I know that I just give it my 100 percent,” Bailey said. “I did my best, that’s all I can do. I’m just really grateful to see it all play out.”
Bailey said she’s excited to introduce Ariel to a new generation. What “touches [her] the most” about the role has been watching kids’ reactions to her performance of “Part of Your World” since its release in September, she said.
“It just makes me cry,” the Grammy nominee said. “The fact that all these little Black and Brown babies are going to be able to feel like they’re being represented is really special to me. I know that if I had that when I was younger, it would have changed a whole lot for me and my perspective on who I am as an individual.”
Bailey was cast in the role in 2019. Speaking to Variety that year, she got candid about the backlash she suffered, saying that she was unfazed by her online trolls.
“I feel like I’m dreaming and I’m just grateful. I don’t pay attention to the negativity,” she said at the time. “I just feel like this role is something bigger than me. It’s going to be beautiful. I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”
“The Little Mermaid” also stars Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Awkwafina as Scuttle and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric.
The live-action remake is set to release on May 26, 2023 ― and Bailey is ready for it.
“I’m so excited for the release. I feel like I’ve been waiting for so long ― we’ve been talking about it for a long time, but now that the rollout’s starting, I’m really grateful that everyone’s gonna get to see,” Bailey told Entertainment Tonight in October. “I hope everyone likes it. We’ll see.”
Watch the trailer below.