The backlash against Halle Bailey starring as Ariel in The Little Mermaid was steeped in racism, and now critics are eating their words.

The film has become the fifth-highest opening for a Memorial Day Weekend release. Stephanie Mills, who starred in Broadway’s The Wiz, a reimagined version of The Wizard of Oz, understands what Bailey is going through, and she recently shared how she supported the young starlet in the midst of the chaos.

Halle Bailey responds to criticism over her casting in ‘The Little Mermaid’

Bailey learned quickly that she had to block out the noise regarding being the studio executive’s first and only choice. While attending the 2023 Disney Dreamers Academy as the official ambassador, she told a room full of graduates, supporters, and executives what she did to block out the noise. 

“For the first time in my life, there was negativity targeted deliberately toward me because I looked different than the original character,” she said. “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.”

She added: “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.”

Stephanie Mills shows support

Mills faced similar criticism when she played Dorthy in her adaptation of the Broadway show. In a lengthy social media post, as The Jasmine Brand reports, she shared a letter of support for Bailey.

“As a young Black girl playing the [role] as Dorothy in 7-time Tony Award-winning Broadway play The Wiz, I know what this baby #HalleBailey has been dealing with. I got so much hate mail, I was told Judy Garland ‘is turning over in her grave.’ All because a little Black girl was playing a [role], that was once played by a white girl.”

She continued: “It’s sad to see the same thing is happening to this beautiful, talented, smart and intelligent actress. “Halle, God put you in this place and time. So let your light shine. Hold your head up high, walk in your peace, and celebrate the greatness that you are.”