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Representation matters, even when, especially because, mermaids aren't real

"The Little Mermaid" live-action remake has released its trailer not without backlash.

NASSAU, The Bahamas — By now you have heard...that the live-action "The Little Mermaid" remake will feature singer and actor Halle Bailey as the little mermaid.

And maybe by now you've seen, countless Black girls and boys watching the trailer, and reacting to a Disney princess who looks like them. 

But it hasn't all been positive. Social media posts have popped up, arguing why a mermaid shouldn't be, and cannot be Black or a person of color, and that a remake should not have featured a Black woman.

So we took the question to a Minnesota mermaid, who now lives in the Bahamas.

"I believe that I'm a mermaid, I've always believed I'm a mermaid," Dianne Gibson said. "That I have mermaid sisters out there."

So it only made sense for this Blaine, Minnesota dive instructor to move to the Bahamas nearly 30 years ago.

"I found that a lot of Bahamians in particular were non-swimmers, and we live near the ocean, and I found that interesting," Gibson said. "So trying to get Bahamians interested in swimming, diving, all these fun water activities in a safe way was definitely a part of what I wanted to do as a business."

Gibson is the owner of a inclusivity-focused health/fitness company as well as the CEO of Bahamas Mermaid Academy.

At the academy, little girls and boys can live out their fantasies of being a part of the underwater world. They can meet "real" mermaids, who can take photos with them, tell them stories, or coach them on how to swim with their tails in deeper parts of the water. They can also dress as sharks. 

It's all a part of an entertainment package, geared towards providing kiddos a chance to be what they've always dreamed of--a mermaid. Gibson said she does birthday parties, as well as other events.

That's where Simmone Bowe and her daughter, Khari met Gibson.

"It's a fantasy, a dream coming true," Bowe said. "This is something that was playtime in the bathtub to something that was real in the big ocean, and seeing these "real mermaids" were you know--it really lit her up."

There, along with other girls, Khari met with beautiful mermaids who looked like her.

She could also be one, with whatever color tail she wanted.

"In the Bahamas because we're in the Caribbean, to me it didn't seem unusual, that we would have mermaids of different cultures or different shades, different sizes," Gibson said. "It seemed natural; it seemed like a given to us, so when the trailer came out and we saw the different responses, both positive as well as the negative, we were taken aback. We've literally for over eight to ten years we had mermaids of all colors and never had any unusual crazy reaction to it."

Bowe said she finds it strange that people are debating about a kid's tale...about a sea creature.

"[People] put so much energy into [this, saying], 'well this is a creature that lives under the water, then it's going to be pale, not dark,'" Bowe said. "That doesn't even make sense because you have sea creatures that are light and you have sea creatures that are dark."

"I hope that people really take from it the beauty of what it is--that it's something for children to have hope to believe, and to strive for something bigger than themselves," Bowe said.

The Little Mermaid is coming May of 2023. Ursula, the purple sea witch is being played by Melissa McCarthy.

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