Cinderella (1997) cast
EW | Ew

Mad About 'The Little Mermaid'? Don't Forget That 'Cinderella' Already Broke Barriers And It Was Iconic

Ever since it was announced that Halle Bailey — a woman of color — would play Ariel in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid, there’s been controversy

Hashtags such as #NotMyAriel began trending. But here’s some news for the critics: Disney’s Cinderella starring Brandy Norwood already broke barriers by having a Black woman as the lead. 

When the casting of Ariel was announced, people weren’t happy since Halle Bailey doesn’t look like the fictional mermaid. 

Hashtags such as #NotMyAriel began trending, with people expressing their distaste over having a woman of color play the red-haired mermaid. 

Thankfully, Halle received support from fellow celebrities, such as Zendaya. 

"Yeeeeessss!! Here for thiiiissss!! @chloexhalle" she tweeted. Zendaya has had to deal with racism before, like the time her hair was slammed by Fashion Police, so she understands what Halle is going through.

Winnie Harlow also sent some love to the star.

Winnie Harlow selfie
instagram | @winnieharlow

The model has vitiligo, a skin condition that causes loss of pigmentation on the skin, resulting in white-ish patches. Because of this, she, too, understands what it's like to deal with racism and adversity.

"It's times like this I'm proud to lie in 2019 Ariel i.e. the little mermaid is black y'all," she wrote on Instagram.

Woman saying "that's on period."
Giphy | ALLBLK

This was met by some backlash, including by a redhead who wrote that she was excited to look up to someone who looks like her. "I'm all for color inclusion but, can't we just keep the Disney princesses like they're supposed to be?"

Harlow wasn't having it for a second.

Halle Bailey
Giphy | grown-ish

She stepped in to defend not only Bailey, but Black girls everywhere, responding back, "What does 'supposed to be' mean? It's it privilege that allows you to state what they are supposed to be."

She then explained that Black girls deserve to see Disney princesses that look like them.

"I love the original Ariel and she isn't going anywhere but down in history. Allow this moment in history to be just as great," she wrote, adding, "this is equality."

Just in case her point wasn't clear enough, she also posted this image on her Instagram Stories:

Tweet about Brandy as Cinderella
instagram | @winnieharlow

This is in reference to something the critics obviously forgot: Cinderella already broke racial barriers. Brandy Norwood, a Black woman, starred as Cinderella in the 1997 TV adaptation of the iconic film. 

In fact, it was one of the most diverse Disney films back then.

Brandy as Cinderella
Giphy | Disney+

Whitney Houston played the Fairy Godmother. She also served as Executive Producer and was the one responsible for hand-picking Brandi as the film’s lead. Filipino American actor Paolo Montalbán played the role of the Prince.

Victor Garber and Whoopi Goldberg played his parents, the King and Queen. They were a powerful biracial couple.

Cinderella (1997) cast
EW | Disney

The critics weren’t too kind about the film at the time. “This is a cobbled-together ‘Cinderella’ for the moment, not the ages,” the New York Times declared.

But that’s okay because what mattered is that audiences loved it.

Brandi and the Prince waving
Giphy | Disney+

I remember watching it as a kid and still consider it one of my favorite fairy tale movies. It showed a multicultural cast in a Disney film at a time when this was rare. 

People have likened the film to what 'The Black Panther' is to Black kids today.

In other words, it provides representation. 

When the teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid came out, reaction videos of little girls seeing Halle as Ariel for the first time went viral. It was, in a word, magical.