Zendaya's Dreads: Giuliana Rancic's Comments Show Why Black Women and Men Feel The Need To Assimilate


My first reaction to the picture above is, "Wow. Zendaya is stunning." Unfortunately, Giuliana Rancic, host of E!'s Fashion Police thinks otherwise. 

After the Oscars, Rancic said on Fashion Police that she did not think that the dreads complimented Zendaya and that the 18 year old looks like she smells of "patchouli oil or weed". This comment from Rancic has caused people on social media to go up in arms against the E! host and has sparked an apology video from Rancic a few days after the show aired.

Some supporters of Giuliana Rancic believe that her comments were not racist and that she was just making a harmless joke that had nothing to do with race. After Zendaya responded to Giuliana's comment, Giuliana rebuttled saying that she was referring to a "bohemian look" and her comments had nothing to do with race. Why, however, did Giuliana praise Kylie Jenner's ungroomed dreads calling her "edgy" and a "style chameleon"?

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It's comments like this that show why black women and men feel the need to assimilate to white culture in certain settings. When I heard these comments made to Zendaya, all that I could think about were my young school years and having to explain to my non-Black classmates that I was not dirty just because I didn't have to wash my hair everyday and that 'yes, I could straighten my hair if I wanted to without it burning off'. Even now, with thick and kinky bra-strap length hair, I feel like I am a display at a museum every time that I wear my hair out in a style that is not in a bun or straightened. People always want to touch and pet my hair and say comments like 'oh, it feels like a sponge!' and 'your hair is just so different'. Unfortunately, I expect comments like these and they don't really phase me anymore; however, when I first made the decision to stop using a relaxer for my hair and cut it all off, it was the scariest moment of my life. 

Why was I afraid to wear my hair in a state that was given to me by birth? It wasn't that I didn't love myself or love my hair. I was honestly afraid of the reactions that I'd get from others with having a hairstyle that was not straight and 'normal'. As my hair grew out, I wore it in very groomed, shaped-up hairstyles and once it got to a certain length, I would put my hair in small twists and put my hair into a bun. Most people could tell that my hair was in twists, but others thought that my hair was in dreads. 

After wearing that hairstyle for a while, I noticed that the way people addressed me was different. White guys would try to 'relate' to me by saying things like 'yo', 'fa shizzle' and 'so, you like Bob Marley?' I constantly felt like people didn't give me the respect that I deserved and instead treated me like I was one of the 'home girls' even in professional settings  (at the time, I was doing biomedical research for metastasis in breast cancer, so respect was everything).

For those who think that hair has nothing to do with race, maybe you don't realize that before most black women and men go for job interviews, they have to consider as a top priority whether or not their natural hairstyle will be accepted at work. Many question whether or not they should just wait until they are accepted and tenured before they can stop straightening and damaging their hair so that their non-Black coworkers can feel comfortable.
Zendaya with straight hair
I can only imagine how Zendaya, a young 18 year old girl living in a self-proclaimed progressive and post-racial society, must have felt when she received backlash the one-time that she did not wear her hair straight. I wonder how other girls who grew up watching Zendaya now must feel about their hair knowing that not even a young celebrity can wear her hair in a natural style without receiving criticism nationwide. What does Giuliana's comments say about other greats in Hollywood with dreads? Do Ava DuVernay and Ledisi (two well-established and well awarded women with dreads in Hollywood) look like they smell like weed too? If so, what does this say about the several black doctors lawyers, professors, researchers, bankers and CEOs who wear dreads? 

The sad thing is that Giuliana Rancic only voiced what a lot of other people may already think. If you go back and watch the video, Kathy Griffin also suggested that Zendaya smelled like weed after Giuliana's initial statements. No other host (other than Kelly Osbourne) tried to stand up for Zendaya or say that those comments were wrong until they themselves received backlash. 

Did you know that according to Us Weekly, the Zendaya segment was filmed three times before we saw the edited version? THREE TIMES in front of a studio audience and the producers still thought that this was okay to say? It only makes me wonder what the previous three takes said.

What are your thoughts on this situation? How do we move forward?

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