The Secrets Behind Halle Bailey’s Hair Transformation For ‘The Little Mermaid’
How ‘The Little Mermaid’ Hair Dept. Head Transformed Halle Bailey’s Hair
Disney’s 2023 live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, starring Halle Bailey as Ariel, introducing a new generation to the classic fairytale. And yes, the songs were iconic, Prince Eric was charming—but we couldn’t take our eyes off of Ariel’s dimensional, auburn locs.
How exactly did they achieve Ariel’s shade of red? How did they make her hair move underwater? BTC needed answers, so we sat down with Oscar-nominated Hair Department Head Camille Friend to go behind the scenes and learn what it takes to go under the sea. Here’s a hint: Camille and her teamed spent $150k on extensions to create Halle’s look—keep reading for all the details.
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Deconstructing the Past for Today’s Audience
With over 20 years in the industry, Camille’s afraid to say she lets her work consume her. “I want [the project] to overtake my body,” she exclaims. “It all starts with the script, never read it one time. Read it three, four times. Ask yourself, ‘What is the genre? Who are these characters? What are their socio-economic circumstances?’ All of these little things are important.”
When it comes to inspiration, the theme of modernizing a classic is a core element of Camille’s work. “There’s a saying in hairdressing nothing is new, which really it isn’t—we’ve created it, we’ve turned it, we’ve twisted it and I’m always surprised at [what people can do],” she shares.
“I love classic shapes and [icons] like Vidal Sassoon but then I think ‘How can I deconstruct it?’”
Bringing an Iconic Redhead to Life
Problem solving is essential when working onset. When Camille joined The Little Mermaid during pre production, it was just that—to help solve a problem. The issue? Actress Halle Bailey already had locs, limiting the Hair Dept’s styling ability. “We couldn’t do a wig over her locs and we didn’t want to cut her hair,” Camille explains.
That left them to ask “How do we work with her hair and still create a look from the past that’s modern for today?” The answer, spending over $150k on custom color and styled extensions for Ariel.
Working with Helene Stahl from Extensions Plus, Camille and her team envisioned an Ariel that was of course her iconic red, but more suitable for Halle. “The original Ariel is obviously a cartoon but also a violet red, which is very difficult for just anyone to pull off,” Camille explained. So, Helene used four shades (one auburn, one red orange and two shades of blonde) to give Ariel’s hair a natural, sun-kissed dimension. The custom extensions were then hand-wrapped around Halle’s natural locs and then additional tendril pieces were added to give Ariel’s hair that ocean wave effect.
With a large part of The Little Mermaid taking place under water, Camille worked closely with the Visual Effects Dept. to make sure that Ariel’s look was cohesive above and below the sea. “We actually worked frame-by-frame to make sure her hair was moving properly,” Camille shares. “It’s a very close team effort, working together and going back and forth to create something special,” she adds.
Teaching the Next Generation in Hairstyling
While Camille is off from working on some of the biggest movies to date, she is helping teach the next generation of Dept. Heads. Hair Scholars is a hands-on mentorship program that teaches hairstylists how to work in the film industry.
“Giving people knowledge makes them excel,” Camille explains. “It’s my journey for giving back to the industry after 25 years and it’s my desire to educate and mentor so we can be excellent in our industry, no matter what we do.”
Learn more about Hair Scholars and follow Camille behind the scenes on some of Hollywood’s biggest films on her Instagram.