In The Know

Black teen who refused to cut his dreadlocks attends Oscars with creators of ‘Hair Love’ film

DeAndre Arnold, the high school senior from Texas who drew national attention last month after he was told by school officials that he wouldn’t be able to walk at his graduation if he didn’t cut his dreadlocks, attended this year’s Academy Awards as a guest of the creative team behind the short film “Hair Love.”

In photos spreading across social media on Sunday night, the high school senior could be seen making an appearance on the red carpet at the awards ceremony alongside Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver, the director and producer, respectively, behind the short film.

Last month, Arnold, 18, rose to national prominence after he was told by school officials that he would be unable to walk during graduation if he did not cut his dreadlocks shorter to be in compliance with the Barbers Hill Independent School District’s hair length policy.   

During an appearance on “Ellen” late last month, Arnold told host Ellen DeGeneres that he had refused to cut his hair, citing his appreciation for his Trinidadian culture.

Arnold said his hair is “really important” to him because his father is from Trinidad.

“It’s part of our culture and our heritage,” he told DeGeneres. “And I really wish the school would kind of be open to other cultures and just at least let us try to tell you some things. Don’t just shut us out.” 

The school district has since faced backlash over the policy, which many critics have condemned as “racist” in recent weeks amid the ongoing controversy.

Arnold’s appearance alongside the creative team behind “Hair Love,” a film that has earned praise in recent months for its celebration of black hair, comes a month after Cherry first announced the team had invited Arnold to the event.

“We’ve all been so inspired by your story, and this is the very least we can do to thank you for standing up for yourself and for your right to wear your natural hair at school,” Cherry said in a video surprising Arnold at the time. 

Cherry, a former NFL player who wrote, produced and directed the viral short film, said that he “wanted to give kids a character that normalizes and celebrates black hair” with the project. 

“Black fathers get a bad rap in mainstream media, so I also wanted to show them as present and caring, versus the deadbeat dad stereotype that is often ascribed to them in film,” he also told NBC News.

Later on Sunday night, “Hair Love” won an Oscar for best animated short.


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