Recently, I had the opportunity to write for the amazing www.ThandieKay.com, sharing my thoughts on the criticism Zendaya Coleman received for her locs at the Oscars. I was honoured, as this website – created by make up artist Kay Montano and actress Thandie Newton – inspired me to start my own blog!
Please be sure to head over to their page to read my own – and other women’s – opinion on the issue in their latest article ‘The Salon of (Hair) Acceptance.’ Until then, check out my thoughts on the controversy below!
When I first heard the remarks of Giuliana Rancic, I was unsure of how to feel. On the one hand I am aware of the toxic bitchiness that ‘Fashion Police’ spews after every award show, and felt it was almost expected that women -regardless of ethnicity, shape or size – would fall victim to Joan Rivers-esque verbal abuse from the self-righteous women on the panel.
Personally, I see the TV show as a platform for high school ‘mean girls’ to belittle and insult anyone slightly different or out of the ordinary. This being the case, at first I didn’t acknowledge the racial undertones of the suggestion that Zendaya’s smelt like weed. Dreads don’t fit with the Fashion Police acceptable code of practice, so it could only be expected, right?
But then I caught myself. What would have been an acceptable hair style for Zendaya to have showcased? Hollywood waves? A classic updo? What hairstyle could this mixed race woman wear that would make her fit into Hollywood’s idea of acceptable beauty – because unfortunately that’s what it boils down to.
I myself have felt these same pressures – on a much smaller scale, of course. As a mixed race woman with naturally wild, curly hair, I have often felt the underlying pressure to conform by straightening or neatening my curls before going to formal events. I’m sure some of my friends, both white and black, would voice their disapproval if I arrived to a wedding, for example, with a large afro or long locs.
For this reason, do I think that Ms Rancic was intentionally racist? No. But I do think that by voicing her ignorant opinion on what is acceptable for the red carpet, she exposed the inherent racism which is still apparent in America and the UK today. ‘You can come to our award ceremonies… but you must fit our standard of beauty.’
Rather than simply brandishing this ignorant woman as a racist, I think we need to look at the deeper issues:
1. That the idea that conforming to white beauty standards or ‘passing for white’ is still promoted in a multicultural western society.
2. That the work that I personally do (as a teacher) to promote equality and eradicate bullying is completely undermined by hideously offensive TV shows such as this.
For this reason Guiliana shouldn’t be fired from the Fashion Police; she was simply doing her job by attempting to make a young woman feel as self-conscious and unattractive as possible. Instead, Fashion Police and other shows just like it should be banned. In the 21st century – after decades of advancements in women’s rights – it is laughable that a show with the sole purpose of criticising other women on their appearance, rather than their talent, is even allowed!
The one positive thing that came out of this mess is how perfectly Zendaya responded to the remarks. Rather than starting a twitter war, or worse, feeling the need to take out the locs in order to fit in, Zendaya explained the significance of her wearing her hair in such a way to such a prestigious event. Rather than wearing locs as an act of aggressive rebellion, she wore them to ‘showcase them in a positive light,’ and ‘to remind people of color that our hair is good enough.’
Which it is. We must remember that. No matter what race we are born or what way our hair grows we are not born inferior to anyone else. We should not feel the need to conform to any superficial beauty standards but instead love ourselves for who we are. Being kind and what’s on the inside is what really matters; something that Guiliana and the ‘high school mean girls’ could all benefit from understanding.