Disney star Zendaya Coleman wore faux-dreadlocks to the Oscars, sparking one fashion critic to accuse her of smelling like drugs.
The 18-year-old ingenue posted a powerful and erudite missive on her Instagram account last night in response to careless comments made by E!'s red carpet correspondent, Giuliana Rancic.
Rancic is known for shallow, trivial red carpet questions and sometimes-harsh fashion critiques. In an attempt at humor on last night's episode of E!'s "Fashion Police," Rancic made a crack about Zendaya's dreaded locks, saying the actress looks like she "smells like patchouli oil… and weed." Word of Rancic's weak attempt at humor spread around the internet, and spurred the wrath of Zendaya's fans.
A closer look reveals that the whole damn E! "Fashion Police" crew had nasty things to say: host Kathy Griffin mocked Zendaya's relevance.
Zendaya immediately saw these humorless cracks as a "teachable moment" and drafted a pointed critique.
Zendaya wrote that she was so in "awe" of the comments made that she couldn't remain silent, and she replied to Rancic's comments:
To say that an 18-year-old young woman with locs must smell of patchouli oil or “weed” is not only a large stereotype but outrageously offensive. I don’t usually feel the need to respond to negative things but certain remarks cannot go unchecked.
Zendaya then went on to point out that Selma director Ava DuVernay and plenty of other successful African-American people wear locs, and argued that the connection between dreads and weed felt unsubstantiated and crude — especially in light of the "already harsh criticism of African-American hair in society."
The entertainer explained that her Oscar hairstyle was meant to "showcase [locs] in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough," and wrote that she believes "locs are a symbol of strength and beauty, almost like a lion's mane."
Rancic later tweeted out a futile apology:
While Rancic was adamant to claim the comment was in no way racial, it's worth questioning what it means to see dreadlocks and comment that someone looks like a pothead or looks "bohemian chic," and what kind of assumptions these labels make about social class and race.
However, the silver lining in all this? Zendaya's look caught the eye of a very different arbiter of style: Vogue. The fashion bible anointed the singer a "breakout star" for the evening, describing her look as "one part Lisa Bonet, one part Venus de Milo, and all very grown up (which is to say, all very un-Disney)" and promising to keep their eye on the budding style star.
Marjon Carlos is a style and culture writer for Fusion who boasts a strong turtleneck game and opinions on the subjects of fashion, gender, race, pop culture, and men's footwear.