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Stephanie Mills in The Wiz on Broadway
Stephanie Mills in The Wiz on Broadway
Stephanie Mills in The Wiz on Broadway

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Stephanie Mills Supports Halle Bailey, Recalls Similar Challenges from ‘The Wiz’ Era

NOTE: This article is 11 months old and may not include the most recent information.

Broadway icon Stephanie Mills recently shared her thoughts and experience from her time as Dorothy in the 1974 adaptation of ‘The Wiz’. This revelation comes as she reflects on the current backlash Halle Bailey is facing for her role as Ariel in Disney’s live-action ‘The Little Mermaid’.

A young, Black actress in the ’70s, Mills was initially met with resistance and hostility for playing a character that Judy Garland, a white woman, had immortalized in the classic 1939 ‘Wizard of Oz’ film. This seemingly parallel journey puts her in a unique position to empathize with Bailey’s current experience.

“‘I got so much hate mail, I was told Judy Garland ‘is turning over in her grave.’ All because a little Black girl was playing a [role], that was once played by a white girl,” Mills shared in a heartfelt Facebook post. She drew parallels to the criticism and prejudice she faced to what Bailey is currently dealing with.

Mills offered words of encouragement to Bailey, acknowledging her talent, intelligence, and resilience. “Halle, God put you in this place and time….So let your light shine. Hold your head up high, walk in your peace, and celebrate the greatness that you are.”

Despite never meeting Bailey in person, Mills expressed her pride in the young actress, applauding how she has handled the naysayers and negativity. She also commended Bailey’s courage and persistence in the face of skepticism and prejudice.

This weekend marks the debut of Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’, and Mills called on the public to support the film. Her hope is that, in doing so, they will send a clear message of encouragement to Bailey and other aspiring Black actors and actresses, helping them to recognize that they can, and should, pursue their dreams despite any roadblocks or biases they may encounter along the way.

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Mills’ story, and her expression of solidarity with Bailey, is a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle for representation and equality in the entertainment industry. As Mills’ and Bailey’s experiences show, there is still work to be done to ensure fair and unbiased portrayal of roles, irrespective of race or ethnicity. However, the bravery displayed by these actresses also offers hope for a future where talent alone dictates the roles they play, and not the color of their skin.

Trevor Decker
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