I was the little Black girl who didn’t get to see Disney princesses that looked like me growing up. I was used to my skin color being underrepresented in the media and questioning if Black girls like me even deserved an opportunity in the spotlight. For so long, I believed that we didn’t.
I believed that we were meant to dim our lights. I could only vaguely see the possibilities of Black girls being “allowed” to shine. I believed that we had to work harder because nothing would be handed to us—and that even when things were handed to us, we’d have to work twice as hard to prove that we were worthy of them.
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So Halle Bailey being cast in the new “Little Mermaid” trailer is everything that the little Black girl in me needed to see—and has desperately needed for quite some time. It’s a reminder that all we ever have to do is show up as our authentic selves—and believe that the rest will fall into place.
You see, I’ve gotten so used to hiding behind my fear of not being accepted for who I truly am. I’ve gotten so used to seeing my skin color as a barrier—and not resting in the beauty that it actually holds. But for so many Black girls (and Black women) today, seeing Halle Bailey’s attainment of the role of Ariel is a reminder that our skin is not a disadvantage—and that holding true and steadfast to our honest selves will always take us further than trying to lessen ourselves to fit a mold that is only meant to restrain us.
Amidst all of the Halle Bailey backlash that has tried to plague this heartwarming moment, we have got to witness the reactions of joy that have spread across the faces of many Black girls who finally get to see someone who looks like them—and I’m one of them.
This is the moment that little Black girls everywhere stop counting themselves out.
I can’t even begin to express why this is monumental. I can’t even begin to imagine how anyone can possibly spew hatred and negativity. All I can think about is what this means for young Black girls everywhere—and how anyone with a child should always want them to feel represented and have positive portrayals of themselves to look up to.
Because not only does this show that representation matters, but it also shows that things like this, things that have for so long seemed out of our reach, are actually attainable for women of color.
This is the moment that little Black girls everywhere begin to dream again. This is the moment that little Black girls everywhere begin to believe in their voices. This is the moment that little Black girls everywhere stop counting themselves out. This is the moment that little Black girls everywhere stop shrinking back from their passions. This is the moment that little Black girls everywhere start trailblazing the world. And this is the very moment that I have been yearning for.
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Because I am still the little Black girl who needed this—and it’s the reassurance that I now need as an older Black woman. The reassurance that changes are being made—even if little by little. The reassurance that the world is starting to show up for underrepresented people, even when the backlash rings heavy. It’s the reassurance that young Black girls will have a different experience as they grow up—a better experience than I had.
Because they get to see themselves in roles that previously didn’t hold space for them. And they get reassured that there is space for them in this world—despite how often they’re made to believe that isn’t true. I often think about the world that young Black girls are now growing up in—my sisters, my nieces, and one day my future daughters. And I celebrate because this is what I want them to see. That they matter, and that nothing is unattainable for them—even being a mermaid.