During Monday’s episode of “Fashion Police,” host Giuliana Rancic made comments on Zendaya’s choice of hairstyle to Sunday’s Oscars, claiming that the dreads made the singer look like she “smells like patchouli oil. Or weed.”
While controversy has risen regarding whether it is Rancic or her co-host Kelly Osbourne who are to take the blame, many were quick to catch the clear cultural insensitivity toward Zendaya and the ignorance toward the message being made through her hairstyle. Zendaya responded to these comments on her Instagram and Twitter accounts, stating that “there is a fine line between what is funny and disrespectful … There is already 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. My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough.” Zendaya rebuffed Rancic’s remarks later in her response with mentions of successful singers, directors and authors who just so happen to wear their hair in dreadlocks, such as Terry McMillan, Ava DuVernay and Ledisi.
As Zendaya reflects in her response, the hosts of “Fashion Police” do not seem to have a clear idea of what is funny and what is distasteful or, in this case, what is blatantly offensive to a culture of people. Zendaya finishes her response by alluding to India.Arie’s 2009 song “I Am Not My Hair,” a song with a surprising cultural relevance for one with an Akon feature. Themes in this song parallel almost unerringly what Zendaya was attempting to communicate through her decisive choice in hairstyle.
“It was a little reminiscent of when Don Imus called the basketball players from Rutgers ‘nappy-headed hoes’ in a moment when they were champions,” writer Michaela Angela Davis told Refinery29. “In this moment, Zendaya was having her moment, and they snatched her into their ignorance.”
In response to Zendaya’s public retort, Rancic did tweet an apology to the singer, assuring Zendaya and all those who took offense that, as far as patchouli oil and weed are concerned, she was “referring to a bohemian-chic look.”
Isn’t it odd, though, that with all the controversy surrounding Zendaya’s adoption of the hairstyle, figures like Kylie Jenner can, without reproach, assume the same hairstyle for reasons that are solely image based? Whether this is a case of appropriation or not, the fact that Kylie’s short-term choice in dreads went unnoticed — and by the few who noticed were seen as “edgy” and “cool” — while Zendaya received backlash, is noteworthy. There seems to be a disparity between how this sort of appropriation is interpreted by the media and by the masses.