Ariel wouldn’t take this, and neither is Diana Huey.
The Asian American actress who stars in the touring musical production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is speaking out after online critics cast doubt on her ability to play the redheaded heroine not because of her talents and skills, but because of her ethnicity.
“It’s never easy being up on a stage in front of thousands of people everyday baring your soul, pushing through exhaustion and just hoping that they’ll like you,” Huey wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “For me personally with this show, I’ve often also felt the added pressure of feeling like I have to work even harder to get the audience to like me or be with me because I’m not what they might have expected to see as an Asian American actor.”
Huey’s address followed an interview with New York state’s The Buffalo News where she discussed coming upon criticism from Disney fans on social media who were outraged that the production didn’t cast a white woman for the role instead.
“It’s hard not to take it personally,” she told The Buffalo News.
In the beginning, she said she was able to brush the remarks aside and not let it affect her. But the harsh words intensified as the tour made its way to the South.
Huey credited a trip to Memphis’ National Civil Rights Museum with helping her understand and deal with her struggle. She also credited a visit with a young Asian girl in Nashville who was with her adoptive mother.
“The mom pulled me aside and said, ‘The second I saw that you were playing Ariel, I just burst into tears for the sake of my daughter being able to see that,’” Huey recalled their interaction to The Buffalo News.
“Seeing a little Asian girl in a place where there aren’t a lot of Asians, it reminds me how important it is to say diversity matters and being open-minded matters and equality matters. If I have to take the brunt of it every now and again, I will,” she said.
In her Facebook post on Saturday, Huey repeated that affirmation.
“No one should feel like they aren’t enough because of the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes or any factor outside of WHO THEY ARE. And as I go out on the road city to city as an Asian American playing Ariel, I hope that it will inspire the next person who is out there auditioning for something to believe that THEY can be cast in a role based on their work and their talents,” she stated.
“I want to believe in a world where racism and bigotry no longer exists. I want to believe that we can truly have equality in this world ― and the arts are a damn good place to start.”