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Halle Bailey's Ariel Hair Came With A Hefty Price Tag

Live-action Disney remakes have staked a place in the blockbuster landscape, and "The Little Mermaid" shows that's not about to change. After the massive success of the animated classic and its iconic soundtrack in 1989, the adaptation starring Grammy nominee Halle Bailey was highly anticipated. Bailey is the first to portray a live-action Black Disney princess, a detail that comes with a lot of added pressure. 

After vicious online commenters raged against Bailey's casting, she looks to be proving her critics wrong. "The Little Mermaid" may be one of the best live-action adaptations yet, a success for fans who were excited to see themselves represented in the aquatic princess. Part of this representation included Bailey's insistence on maintaining the integrity of her natural hair, even if it wasn't cheap. Camille Friend, whose most notable credit to date is 2022's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," was the hair department head in charge.

Friend told Variety that using a wig was not an option for the production, and instead decided to augment Bailey's locs naturally. They opted to wrap Bailey's hair in red extensions, a process that initially took over 12 hours. "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," Friend reported. "It was a process."

Bailey wanted to maintain her cultural heritage

Making sacrifices for your art should not be the norm, especially when you want to honor your culture. Camille Friend fully understood this after visiting with Halle Bailey in her home ahead of styling her hair for the movie.

"I went to meet with Halle's family. Her mother is spiritual and they're a kind family," Friend told Variety. "I started to understand who she was and why the natural hair element was important to keep." Bailey's locs reach her waist at around 24 inches, meaning this process would not be easy. In addition to the impressive price tag, Friend had to make some creative decisions to adhere to Bailey's request and also compliment the aesthetics of the movie. Because locs don't float underwater, Friend decided to add pieces of free-falling hair that would add to the iconic visuals of Ariel. And it wouldn't be "The Little Mermaid" without the hallmark scene of Ariel flipping her hair back when reaching the surface. The solution for this was a little more straightforward.

"[Hairstylist] Tiffany Williams jumped in there and took the movie the rest of the way," Friend said. "This is what I know, Halle did the hair flip, and it was helped with CGI." No confirmation how much the graphics added to the price tag of the hair, but it did bring the entire aesthetic together.