If anyone knows how to get the right shade of red for black hair, it’s Camille Friend. The Oscar-nominated head of the hair department, whose credits include ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,’ experimented with adding color to Lupita Nyong’o’s hair, and now she’s doing it again. This time it was for Halle Bailey in Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid.” But it didn’t come cheap.
Her challenge was to take Disney’s most famous redhead, Princess Ariel, and create a look for Bailey that would work. On top of that, maintaining Bailey’s natural hair was an important requirement that she had to meet.
Bailey, who sports long locs, wanted to stay true to her black heritage. And keeping them wig-free would herald an important moment for Bailey’s portrayal and identity, as the film features Disney’s first black Ariel (and the first black princess in a live-action movie.)
Talk with Variety, Friend says she started with Bailey’s roots. “I went to meet Halle’s family. His mother is spiritual and they are a kind family. She adds, “I started to understand who she was and why it was important to keep the natural hair element.”
Disney and director Rob Marshall had no qualms.
Once Friend had the approval and figured that out, she began her creative process. “I look at the shape of the face, the skin tone and the color of the eyes. And what color his costume will be.
Friend was determined not to cut Bailey’s natural hair or use a wig. “I knew a wig just wasn’t going to work,” she says.
Friend’s dilemma was creating the iconic redhead princess look without cutting Bailey’s locs. The packing process took 12-14 hours. She says Bailey was a ‘trooper’ and Friend cut the process down to a reasonable time. She says, “Halle’s locs are up to her waist, over 24 inches. And putting her in a wig was going to look crazy.
She started playing with red again. “If we take hair and wrap it around her hair, we don’t have to cut it and we don’t have to color it. We can change her color without changing the internal structure of her hair. Its structure and its hair is her,” Friend says of her thought process.
The 30 inch long hair has been custom colored and fused with keratin tips. “It’s three shades of red,” says Friend, who found the hair at Extensions Plus in Chatsworth. “I’m not estimating, but we probably spent at least $150,000 because we had to redo it and take it down. You couldn’t use it and you’d have to start over. It was a process.
Once she understood that, she had to deal with the water element. “Locs don’t float,” says Friend. And the hair needed to “dance” when Ariel was underwater. His solution? Added loose hair strands.
When Ariel loses her voice and changes to a human, Friend changes her hair slightly, wanting to show Ariel’s vulnerability. “She doesn’t know what it is to be human.”
The hair strands were straighter with a slight beachy wave. A friend says she used an oval-shaped GHD iron. “I always wanted it to look like an ocean wave.”
As for that hair flip Ariel does when she comes out of the water, Friend wasn’t on set for it — COVID and scheduling conflicts kept her from finishing the film. “Tiffany Williams jumped in there and took the movie all the way… That’s what I know, Halle did the bun, and it was helped with CGI.”
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