Halle Bailey’s Ariel Hair In The Little Mermaid Cost Producers S$202,600
And it wasn’t a wig, okay.
Ariel’s hair in The Little Mermaid live-action remake didn’t come cheap.
When Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel, she knew she couldn’t play the part without the title character’s iconic red hair. At the same time, Bailey also wanted to honour to her Black heritage by keeping her long natural locs intact.
Can she have it both ways?
Enter Camille Friend, the Oscar-nominated hair department head, to take on the Herculean task.
For starters, Friend — who also worked on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Tenet and Charlie’s Angels — knew a wig wouldn’t cut it. Snipping Bailey’s hair wasn't an option either.
“I knew a wig just wasn't going to work,” Friend told Variety. "Halle's locs are down to her waist, over 24 inches (61 cm). And putting her in a wig was going to look crazy.”
Her solution? “If we take hair and wrap it around her locs, we don’t have to cut them and we don’t have to colour them. We can change her colour without changing her internal hair structure. Her structure and her hair are her."
She used custom-coloured 30-inch hair — which she bought from Extensions Plus — and fused it with keratin tips.
Friend experimented with three shades of red before arriving at the perfect Ariel shade.
“I’m not guesstimating, but we probably spent at least $150,000 (S$202,600) because we had to redo it and take it out. You couldn’t use it and we’d have to start again. It was a process.”
The wrap process was equally painstaking: Bailey was on the make-up chair for 12 to 14 hours, which Friend said was the most reasonable time she could get it down to.
Elsewhere, to create the illusion that Ariel’s hair could “dance” in water (because “locs don’t float”), Friend added loose pieces of hair.
In the Variety piece, Friend also revealed that due to the pandemic and scheduling conflicts, she didn’t work on the whole movie, and one scene she was involved in was Ariel’s hair flip when she gets out of the water.
“[Hair stylist] Tiffany Williams jumped in there and took the movie the rest of the way," said Friend. "This is what I know, Halle did the hair flip, and it was helped with CGI.”
The Little Mermaid also stars Melissa McCarthy (as Ursula), Javier Bardem (King Triton) and Jonah Hauer-King (Eric) as well as the voices of Awkwafina (as Scuttle), Jacob Tremblay (as Flounder) and Daveed Diggs (as Sebastian). Watch our exclusive interview with Awkwafina and Tremblay here: