Like most Broadway musical leads, Diana Huey is a multi-talented performer, who can sing, dance, and act—all in front of a live audience. But during a national tour of Disney's The Little Mermaid, in which she portrays Ariel, the star faced discriminatory comments and racism that she did not expect.
You see, Huey is Asian. (To be more precise, she is of Japanese-American heritage.) But that one, very external, discrepancy from the Ariel in the 1989 animated Disney classic led to heart-wrenching experiences for the actress as she traveled the country this year.
Huey, who hails from Washington State, shared the story with the Buffalo News's Colin Dabkowski in an article published on Saturday and further explained the background in a heartfelt post on Facebook.
Ahead of a performance at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tenn., earlier this summer, Huey recalled looking at Facebook and discovering comments that criticized her casting because they expected a white actress rather than an Asian American one in the title role. (Just to be extra clear: Ariel is a mermaid. As in a fictional, mythological creature. As in half fish—an entirely separate class of animal from her mammalian human half. So any discussion about her ethnic makeup really should start with those fish genes.)
"It's hard not to take it personally," Huey told the 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."
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Outspoken support from director Glenn Casale—who cast Huey because she "was a good actress, she was the right age, she sings it like nobody else"—has helped. He noted: "We probably saw 50 Ariels, and Diana really sang it the best."
In her Facebook post, Huey got real about the additional feelings of vulnerability that come with being judged by your race:
Even her personal outlook changed:
Inspired by her strength and heartfelt message, fans shared supportive messages on Facebook:
Huey also shared her positive attitude toward future generations of aspiring Broadway stars and eliminating discrimination around the country:
Read her full post here and listen to her perform "Part of Your World" below.
Click here to see if you can snag tickets to The Little Mermaid with Huey near you.