This year was probably the first year in a long time that I didn’t watch the Oscars. This wasn’t because I chose not to but because I was bombarded by other obligations (and last time I checked Meryl Streep and Neil Patrick Harris did not agree to write my essay on journalism ethics).
Since my Oscar viewing plans were in the ground I decided to go on Buzzfeed and any other sites that could summarize all the important parts of the show which would have saved me a good 2 hours any way (can we talk about Lady Gaga’s voice though, glorious!).
After reviewing the highlights of the show I had to find out what everyone was wearing and was in awe with dresses worn by beauties such as Emma Stone, Lupita Nyong’o and Zendaya Coleman.
Mind you, when I did see Zendaya the first thing in my head was “why was this chick invited?” but that quickly changed to “look at that dress! Look at that hair! Baby girl is such a fashion killer.”
That was that.
I’ve seen Zendaya slay the red carpet countless times and have always been inspired by her boldness and eccentricity when picking her fashion pieces. For her Oscar’s outfit I didn’t see her decision to wear faux dreadlocks as “bold” or “eccentric”. To me it was just a normal girl of African descent sporting a popular hairstyle amongst those of African descent and doing it elegantly.
That was that.
Then ‘Fasion Police’ host Giuliana Rancic had to open her mouth.
I don’t even like ‘Fashion Police’ because I think it is wrong how all of the hosts get paid to rag on other people. It’s a very malicious show.
So of course I don’t understand how the first thing that comes to Rancic’s mind about Zendaya’s look was that she possibly smells like patchouli oil or weed.
Well that’s a lie, I do understand how that’s the first thing that comes to her mind: stereotypes.
From how I see it Rancic saw a brown-skinned girl with dreadlocks and connected that with the stereotype that black people with dreads are lazy potheads or extremist militants.
Rancic saw the skin color and the hair and connected it with a negative stereotype.
This runs deep because as a young black woman proudly wearing my natural hair I have firsthand experience of the negative views about black hair.
I’ve worn my hair in fros, twist-outs, box braids, twists and even tried the faux locs that Zendaya sported at the Oscars (although hers looked a trillion times better because you know I don’t have a fabulous stylist on hand like that).
I’ve heard comments from strangers telling me that I looked like Whoopi Goldberg in ‘The Color Purple’ and even my own mother telling me that I wouldn’t get a man if I kept wearing my hair in its natural state.
Then there are the countless articles that I’ve read about kids being expelled from school because of their afros or braids.
It bothers me that the natural growth pattern of African hair is seen as a distraction or inappropriate.
In Rancic’s case I believe she viewed Zendaya’s dreads at the Oscars as not elegant enough for such a prestigious event.
That shouldn’t be the case.
Women of African descent should not feel pressured into straightening their tightly curled hair for a wedding or another formal event.
Men and women shouldn’t feel pressured to cut their dreads in order to obtain a job.
Although Whoopie Goldberg’s hair in ‘The Color Purple’ wasn’t at all fabulous, Whoopie Goldberg’s hair off-screen shouldn’t be used as the base for an insult.
Kinky roots, braids, cornrows and dreads are not ugly and they are not inappropriate.
Although blacks, whites, Asians, etc. are different in appearance doesn’t mean they should be treated differently because of their natural appearances.
When we tell a 5 year old black girl that her dreads are inappropriate for school but tell her white classmate that her braided ponytail is totally fine we are telling the black girl that white beauty is true beauty.
When we say that Kylie Jenner’s dreads or Kendall Jenner’s cornrows are “edgy” and “trendy” but overlook the thousands of black men and women who have grown up on these styles and have faced hardships because of them we are spitting in those black faces and handing flowers and candies to the white faces.
We need to send messages that tell black girls to embrace their natural roots and I applaud Zendaya and others for doing that.
Women who inspired me over the years include Lisa Bonet (not just her hair styles but her bold outfits), Whoopi Goldberg, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Brandy, Solange, Yaya Dacosta, Viola Davis, Erika Alexander and let’s not forget that episode in ‘Living Single’ with Terrence Carson