When Japanese-born Diana Huey accepted the role of Ariel, some weren’t pleased. Not because of her talent or skills — the issue at hand was that she was not a white woman.
The Asian American actress took online to respond to criticism on her role as Ariel in Disney’s live musical production of “The Little Mermaid.”
In speaking with Buffalo News to promote the production, Huey turned to a much larger discussion on race and diversity as she explained how she came across Facebook comments of people who were outraged by her casting. “It’s hard not to take it personally,” Huey told Buffalo News. “I had kind of a funky first part of the show and I was like, how do I get out of this? I can’t let that affect me.”
The star took to her own Facebook to express her concerns about the importance of representation onstage as she tours throughout America.
“When I auditioned for Mermaid, I was just excited to get to sing Part Of Your World with a live accompanist – I didn’t think I had a real chance in booking it because I’m Asian,” Huey wrote. “Looking back at that now, that thought makes me so sad. 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.”
She continued: “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. 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.”
“She was a good actress, she was the right age, she sings it like nobody else,” Director Glenn Casale told told Buffalo News. “We probably saw 50 Ariels, and Diana really sang it the best.”
Huey’s role has also sparked a wave of encouragement by fans. After a Nashville show, she explained that a young Asian girl and her mother pulled her 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 reflected, “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.”
— Diana Huey (@DianaHuey) August 14, 2017
She openly expressed her thanks to fans in a video message on Twitter, stating, “I’m proud to stand with you to try and make the world a more loving place.”