Oscar-nominated hairstylist Camille Friend told 'Variety' about transforming Bailey for the film
Halle Bailey's hair was a huge focus of the costume and beauty department in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. That's because Bailey, who plays Ariel, specifically wanted to keep her long natural locs intact while portraying the Disney princess.
However, it was a task that Oscar-nominated hair department head Camille Friend was up for. Friend has a stacked résumé, most recently working on Lupita Nyong'o's hair in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, so she had extensive knowledge to pull from to transform Bailey into redheaded Ariel.
While speaking with Variety, Friend said the first step to perfecting the star's hair was traveling to her roots — pun intended — to see why her hair was so important to her.
"I went to meet with Halle's family. Her mother is spiritual and they're a kind family," she shared. "I started to understand who she was and why the natural hair element was important to keep."
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Once she got to work on figuring out her process, Friend was focused on making sure not to cut any of Bailey's hair or even use a wig. "I knew a wig just wasn't going to work," she said, continuing, "Halle's locs are down to her waist, over 24 inches. And putting her in a wig was going to look crazy."
Friend figured out, though. "If we take hair and wrap it around her locs, we don't have to cut them and we don't have to color them. We can change her color without changing her internal hair structure. Her structure and her hair are her."
To get it just right, Friend used custom-colored 30-inch hair and fused it with keratin tips. She ultimately used three shades of red to make it the perfect Ariel shade.
Friend said because of the amount of color and its length, they "probably spent at least $150,000," because they "had to redo it and take it out."
"You couldn't use it and we'd have to start again. It was a process," she added.
Friend also said that for the water scenes, the team added extra loose pieces of hair to stick out from the original layer of Bailey's hair because "locs don't float," and the hair needed to look like it could "dance" when Bailey was beneath the water's surface.
To get Bailey picture perfect for the film, Bailey sat for 12 to 14 hours to wrap her locs, which the hairstylist said was the most reasonable time she could get it to.
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