Diana Huey, a Japanese American, is the first woman of color to play Ariel on stage in the 2017 Broadway adaption.
Speaking to The Wrap, Huey, who also had her generous share of racist comments, offered words of support for the 19-year-old African American star:
“Keep your head up and know that it’s so much bigger than you as a single person fighting these battles.”
Huey never heard hate comments from children at her shows. In fact, they adored her even without the costume.
“I never had one kid in 300-something shows over the course of a year say, ‘Oh, you don’t look like Ariel.’ They would see me come out of the stage door with my hair and street clothes and throw themselves at me screaming. ‘Ariel!’ when I looked like Diana,” the actress said.
Adults, however, are a different story. When a photo of her with a red wig and mermaid tail was released, someone snapped immediately.
“Within the first, man, three to five minutes when my picture first came out wearing the red wig and the mermaid tail,” she told WKBW. “Within the first few minutes there was a very negative comment from someone in the community just like, ‘Since when is Ariel Asian? I’m not going to be seeing this anymore, keep it classic.’”
Still, many supported Huey’s casting, including a young Asian girl and her adoptive mother who approached her after a show in Nashville.
“The mom pulled me aside and said, ‘The second I saw that you were playing Ariel, I just burst into tears for the sake of my daughter being able to see that,’” she told Buffalo News. “Seeing a little Asian girl in a place where there aren’t a lot of Asians, it reminds me how important it is to say diversity matters and being open-minded matters and equality matters. If I have to take the brunt of it every now and again, I will.”
Disney’s Freeform, home of Bailey’s “Growin-ish,” has defended the R&B singer’s casting in an Instagram post this week. According to the network, while the original author of the story, Hans Christian Andersen, was Danish, “Ariel…is a mermaid” and a fictional character.
Even if Ariel is Danish, “Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black,” the network said. “Black Danish people, and thus mer-folk, can also genetically (!!!) have red hair.”