Halle Bailey was this year’s Disney Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) ambassador. The five-time Grammy-nominated singer spent four days from March 23-27 participating in the annual mentoring program by Walt Disney World Resort that brings 100 students from around the country for an immersive career-inspiring weekend at The Most Magical Place on Earth.

Throughout their time, Disney Dreamers attended interactive sessions teaching valuable life tools, leadership skills, effective communication techniques, and networking strategies. Students also participated in workshops for specific disciplines aligned with their lifelong dreams. The workshops are designed to introduce the Disney Dreamers to various career paths in business, entertainment, and sciences and potential career opportunities within The Walt Disney Company.

While there, students interacted with Bailey on an up-close and personal level. They took photos, sat for a 1:1 interview of Bailey conducted by black-ish alum Marsai Martin, and two Dreamers were selected to attend the red carpet premiere of the highly anticipated live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

Bailey was cast as Ariel to much fanfare in 2019, but there was also much discussion online regarding whether she – a Black goddess with loc’d tresses – “looked like” the animated character. The online chatter was wild, but Bailey has come out on top with fierce defenders.

During the closing ceremony, Bailey reflected on growing up alongside her sister Chloe in Atlanta, where they’d swim in their backyard pool and pretend to be mermaids. Bailey specifically imagined herself as Ariel. Never did she think she’d actually star as the Disney princess, but just like the DDA class, one dream took her further than she could have predicted.

And with success comes trials, as Bailey learned amid the chaos of her critics when she landed the role. She took a moment to give the DDA class a special message of perseverance, even when times are not clear.

“I landed the role of Ariel. I was happy, shocked, excited, a host of feelings,” she told the audience. “What came next was I assumed that everyone else in the world would feel what I was feeling. And arguably, looking back, there were probably a lot more people rooting for me than against me. But the naysayers, those who were negative, were loud, very loud. And so, for the first time in my life, there was negativity targeted deliberately toward me because I looked different than the original character.”

She continued, “And there were days when I thought, no one wants me to win, but here’s how I coped, and it is something for you to think about– ‘Who are you?’ I asked myself. Who are you? You need to ask yourself. Whether someone is supportive or not, do you know who you are? Did I accept this role for all good things? Do I see it as a blessing? Did Rob Marshall, the film’s director, make the right decision in casting me and making a historic casting for an iconic role? And all the answers were yes, and those yeses started drowning out all the nos that are trying to shake it.”

Bailey said that with time, support and faith, she was able to block out the noise.

“And in the end, the loudest voice in your head should be yours, and those of the people who love you, and who love and respect you, simple but effective,” she said. “Who am I? My name is Halle Bailey, and I am a winner and a dreamer.”

Bailey then had the audience of dreamers, chaperones and staff repeat the same affirmation about themselves.