The Story Behind Halle Bailey's $150,000 Mermaid Hair

How creating the iconic hair for the live-action adaptation of Little Mermaid honors Bailey’s request to preserve her heritage.

One of the most challenging aspects of making a live adaptation of an animated film is making the animated characters come alive. One factor that should be considered when translating an animated character to live-action is the hair. It is said that a person’s hair is their crowning glory, and for Disney princesses, their iconic hair completes their character design. And for the live adaptation of Disney’s Little Mermaid, Ariel, Halle Bailey’s hair is nothing short of iconic. 

Halle Bailey in the Little Mermaid poster
Little Mermaid poster/Photo via Instagram @disneylittlemermaid

The Oscar-nominated hair department head Camille Friend, made the most difficult challenge look effortless on the silver screen. Friend managed to incorporate Ariel’s iconic original red hair and Bailey’s roots and heritage into the live-action character design. In an interview with Variety, Friend explained the process of creating Ariel’s hair for the film.

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From the roots 

The hair department head bravely took on the challenge of creating silver screen-ready hair for Ariel. In order to understand the heritage Bailey wants to preserve and showcase in the movie, Friend went back to the singer’s roots. “I went to meet with Halle’s family. Her mother is spiritual and they’re a kind family. I started to understand who she was and why the natural hair element was important to keep,” she said. 

Creating perfect red hair that compliments Bailey’s skin tone was a challenge. Along with the challenge of maintaining Bailey’s natural locs without making her wear a wig. The first Black woman portraying the Disney princess is an important milestone for Hollywood’s inclusivity and representation. That’s why her hair was a vital part of the character design. 

Halle Bailey with a fan in the premiere of the Little Mermaid
Halle Bailey with a fan/Photo via Instagram @disneystudios

After getting the approval, the Oscars nominee took into account Bailey’s facial shape, skin tone, and eye color. Friend also took into consideration what Ariel’s costume would look like. Aside from considering all the factors needed, Friend also was firm with the decision to not cut Bailey’s natural hair.

“Halle’s locs are down to her waist, over 24 inches. And putting her in a wig was going to look crazy,” she said. Friend used a wrapping process that took 12 to 14 hours. She said Bailey was a “trooper” for enduring the process.

Photo via Instagram @disneystudios

Aside from the tedious process, the beautiful 30-inch long custom-colored hair came with a hefty price. “I’m not guesstimating, but we probably spent at least $150,000 because we had to redo it and take it out. You couldn’t use it and we’d have to start again. It was a process,” she said. 

The process and the price of the hair are worth it. Though tedious and expensive, showing locs on screen is the representation needed for little girls with the same hair to feel included. Bailey’s hair is not only a symbol of inclusion and representation but also an image of “black girl magic.”

Banner photo via Instagram @disneystudios.

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