When Disney announced that Halle Bailey—a black singer and actor–would play Ariel in its live action remake of The Little Mermaid, the news was taken by some as a hint that producers might cast other key roles diversely—including main villain and LGBT+ icon Ursula.
The original 1989 animation drew Ursula as a vampy sea witch with purple skin, bold blue eye makeup and a shock of white hair—a design heavily inspired by subversive drag queen Divine, real name Glenn Milstead.
According to a 2016 article in Hazlitt, the film’s producer and lyricist Howard Ashman might even have considered casting Milstead for the role.
Jeffrey Schwarz, director of the biographical film I Am Divine, told Hazlitt that Milstead definitely “would have wanted the part” had he not passed away in 1988, shortly after making his mainstream breakthrough in Hairspray.
While the latest reports suggest that Melissa McCarthy is being courted for the upcoming remake, there are a string of drag queens and queer performers who could instead carry on Divine’s legacy.