“Malcolm & Marie” actress Zendaya is here to do more than bring fictional characters to life and be photographed in stunning designer threads. The budding fashion icon proved just that when she responded to a racially insensitive comment made about her 2015 Oscar look.
That year Zendaya, then 18 years old, wore a glamorous off-the-shoulder gown and her hair styled in locs. “Fashion Police” co-host Giuliana Rancic jokingly said she felt as though the actress smelled of “patchouli oil and weed.”
Zendaya reacted to the comment then in an Instagram post, “There is already a harsh criticism of African-American hair in society without the help of ignorant people who choose to judge others based on the curl of their hair […] To me locs are a symbol of strength and beauty, almost like a lion’s mane. I suggest some people should listen to India Arie’s ‘I Am Not My Hair’ and contemplate a little before opening your mouth to judge.”
Looking back at the moment, the 24-year-old has zero regrets. “That’s how change happens,” she told W Magazine in its latest cover story.
She added, “And it made me think, How could I always have a lasting impact on what people saw and associated with people of color?”
Since then the former Disney star has rocked her natural curly hair, box braids and cornrows and an Afro in photoshoots and on red carpets.
“A lot of people don’t realize that hair is a big thing for a lot of people, not just African-American women,” she told Complex. “It’s something to be aware of and to be cautious of.”
The Oscar-worthy teaching moment even moved Mattel to replicate the look by honoring Zendaya with her very own Barbie.
“She’s a role model who is focused on standing up for yourself, your culture, and for what you believe in — that’s very relevant for girls,” said Mattel spokesperson Michelle Chidoni. She continued by stating the doll “commemorates that particular red carpet look where she had a moment of confidence that was so positively received”