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‘The Little Mermaid’: How Halle Bailey’s Locs and Extensions Were Created For Live-Action Film

Jazz Tangcay, VARIETY

May 26, 2023

If anyone knows how to get the right shade of red for Black hair, it’s Camille Friend. The Oscar-nominated hair department head, whose credits include “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” experimented with adding color into Lupita Nyong’o’s hair, and now she’s doing it again. This time, it was for Halle Bailey in Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid.” But doing so didn’t come cheap.

Bailey, who sports long locs, wanted to stay true to her Black heritage. And maintaining them without a wig would herald an important moment for representation and Bailey’s identity, as the movie presents Disney’s first Black Ariel (and first Black princess in a live-action movie.)

Speaking with Variety, Friend says she began with Bailey’s roots. “I went to meet with Halle’s family. Her mother is spiritual and they’re a kind family.” She adds, “I started to understand who she was and why the natural hair element was important to keep.”

Both Disney and director Rob Marshall had no qualms.

Once Friend had approval and an understanding of this, she began her creation process. “I look at the facial shape, skin tone and eye color. And what color her costume is going to be.”

Friend was determined not to cut any of Bailey’s natural hair or use a wig. “I knew a wig just wasn’t going to work,” she says.

Friend’s dilemma was creating the iconic red-haired princess look without cutting Bailey’s locs. The wrap process took 12 to 14 hours. She says Bailey was a “trooper,” and Friend got the process down to a reasonable time. She says, “Halle’s locs are down to her waist, over 24 inches. And putting her in a wig was going to look crazy.”

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