Matthew A. Cherry On Dove’s New Kids Collection Inspired By ‘Hair Love’ And The Film’s Continued Impact
Dove/Courtesy of Matthew A. Cherry

When director, writer, producer and former NFL player Matthew A. Cherry created the animated short film Hair Love, he had high hopes for it, namely in terms of diversifying the characters seen in such projects and uplifting Black fathers and the self-esteem of Black children. Still, he never expected the film to become such a significant achievement, winning an Academy Award, turning into a best-selling children’s book, and getting adapted into a spinoff, Young Love, by HBO Max.

“Upon Hair Love’s early success, my hope was that the film would increase Black representation in mainstream animation, but I had no idea of the extent it would increase representation in media and culture as a whole,” he tells ESSENCE. Cherry is now preparing for the project to have an impact in the realm of the very topic it highlights — the textured hair of Black and brown kids. Teaming up with longtime supporter Dove, which is a co-founder of the CROWN Coalition seeking to pass the very important CROWN Act to end hair discrimination, the brand has crafted the Dove Kids Hair Love Collection. It’s inspired by Cherry’s film and includes a moisturizing spray, a nourishing conditioner, a 2-in-1 detangler and refreshing spray and styling curl cream. Zuri, the adorable main character of the story, is the face seen on every bottle encouraging kids to feel confident about their hair.

“The packaging also features an empowering positive affirmation, ‘I am caring, brilliant, and creative,’ to boost self-esteem and set kids on the right path for a positive relationship with their hair,” he says.

Some of the products are already available on Walmart.com while the full collection will be available in Walmart stores in January. We talked to Cherry about what this extension of his beloved story means to him, and about the significance of this partnerships with Dove, as they were one of the earliest supporters of Hair Love during its Kickstarter days.

ESSENCE: You created ‘Hair Love’ out of a desire to see more representation, including the ability to see and appreciate Black hair. How is it to see products, like this Hair Love inspired line, that promote that appreciation by supplying the curls of our children with the nourishment and care they need?

Matthew A. Cherry: It’s truly amazing to witness the continued impact that Hair Love is having on the next generation of Black children. For years, Dove and I have been working in parallel to widen beauty definitions and ensure representation in media and culture. I’m thrilled that Hair Love’s main character, Zuri, now has the opportunity to be taken “offscreen” and come to life on the front of actual textured hair product bottles themselves to further increase representation of natural hair.

What role did you have in the development of the collection? 

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Dove and I have a long history together with Hair Love, beginning in 2017, when the brand provided early support to my project via Kickstarter. I’m also a dedicated CROWN Act supporter and have always been impressed by Dove’s work aiming to advance this hair discrimination legislation, particularly by co-founding the CROWN Coalition. Shortly after Dove Kids Care launched in early 2021, I was offered the opportunity to collaborate – a partnership that made complete sense considering our long history of Hair Love and CROWN. I couldn’t be more excited about the new product collection that inspires hair love and confidence in kids with curls, coils and waves through playful and empowering packaging featuring Zuri.

Since Hair Love was released in 2019, you’ve won an Academy Award for it, it’s been adapted into a best-selling book and a spin-off animated series is coming to HBO Max. Could you ever have foreseen any of this for this project? Did you have an inkling that it would have a great impact? 

It has been such a wild ride and a dream come true for me! I think the continuing impact of Hair Love and our upcoming series Young Love is a testament to anybody who has more than one dream or working in a day job and having a dream that they want to pursue. It’s never too late to pursue your passion, and there’s no rule that says you only can live out one of your passions. It can happen for you.  

How does this launch with Dove Kids Care build upon the impact of ‘Hair Love’ and also encourage us all to celebrate natural hair? 

Research shows that kids as young as three years old can start to build self-esteem when they see themselves positively represented in the world around them. The new Dove Kids Care Hair Love collection features Hair Love’s main character, Zuri, on the packaging wearing fun and playful styles to highlight the diversity of natural hair and help the next generation of Black kids develop a positive relationship with beauty. We hope this new product line helps inspire hair love and build real self-confidence in kids from a young age. I am also proud that each product features a QR code with more information on The CROWN Act – an important piece of legislation that makes race-based hair discrimination illegal. Dove is a co-founder of the CROWN Coalition working to pass The CROWN Act. We have 36 more states to go and parents can learn more and sign the official CROWN Act petition to join the fight to #PassTheCROWN.

The Dove Kids Care Hair Love product is in alignment with the Dove Self-Esteem Project. Learn more about it at www.Dove.com/SelfEsteem.

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