When I look at Zendaya I see more than just a beautiful celebrity with great clothing, I see the faces of millions of Black women who are deciding to unapologetically be themselves.
Kinky hair has always been a hot topic, and similar to other aspects of Black culture, it's been stereotyped and misunderstood for decades. Recently on Fashion Police, co-host, Giuliana Rancic said that Zendaya's loc’d hairstyle she wore to the 2015 Oscars looked like it "smells like patchouli oil" or "weed."
“While I was taken aback by the content of some of the comments, I was prepared for criticism,” says Shelby Swain, a celebrity hairstylist who crafted Zendaya’s hair for the special evening. “However, I was not prepared for the comments that were made on Fashion Police, I expected them to have a more inclusive take on fashion as it relates to hairstyling.”
The singer-actress posted a heartfelt response on Instagram, letting people know that Rancic’s comment was "not only a large stereotype but outrageously offensive.” Rancic has since apologized on the show, and says the incident taught her to be more aware of clichés and stereotypes.
While many of us were surprised by the comments, the problem doesn’t lie within controversial statements or stereotypes. The larger issue lives within our desire to receive validation. There are people who genuinely do not like locs or afros, but that doesn’t mean that it’s our duty to change their perception. Some people will never grasp our culture, that’s why it’s important to remember that we determine our own worth and value. We must embrace our identity and stop looking for approval from others.
If you step outside the beauty barriers of Hollywood for a moment and walk into the corporate world, you’ll find beliefs that our hair isn't professional. We’ve all thought about it. I even find myself hesitating on choosing the ‘right’ hairstyle for a corporate environment. Thoughts like, “will they label me as ghetto if I wear box braids?” or “maybe I should avoid getting a bob sewn-in to dodge the awkward haircut questions,” have definitely crossed my mind, but what has taken place over the last few days couldn’t be more of a wakeup call. Like many, Zendaya enjoys changing up her look. That’s the beauty of our hair. One day we can have tightly coiled curls, the next day we can rock a pixie. Black hair is designed for versatility and if we decide to change it up, so be it. And, more to the point, we shouldn’t care what the media or any so-called professional deems “acceptable.”
When I look at Zendaya I see more than just an actress or another pretty celebrity with great clothing. I see millions of Black women and men who are deciding to unapologetically be themselves, and I love it.
“I want black women to know that they should embrace and love their hair,” says Swain. “I also want them to understand that healthy hair is good hair; let that be your metric.”
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