Japanese-born actress Diana Huey has hit back at critics that have criticised her casting as Ariel in The Little Mermaid – saying she hopes her casting will inspire others.
The Asian actress received hate online when some declared she wasn’t, as they’ve seen before, a white actress playing Disney’s loveable princess. A white actress playing a mythical mermaid, that is.
During a conversation with Buffalo News, Diana explained that she’d been the victim of comments about her race and the role – opening up a discussion around representation in mainstream American theatre.
She took to her Facebook page to write afterwards to address the article and to explain why her casting feels vitally important to the community.
She wrote: “When you are in a show, much less as a pinnacle character of it, there’s a huge fear that if the audience doesn’t like you or isn’t with you, that you are doing them a disservice or ruining the show for them.
“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.
“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. 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.”
Later adding: “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.
“I am so proud to be a part of this company and I am so proud to be an Asian American artist.”
She signed off the post with #DiversityMatters.
During the original interview, Diana explained: “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.
“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.”
More beacons like Diana Huey in the world, please. Thanks.