DeAndre Arnold originally made headlines when the teen from Texas was told he couldn’t walk his graduation at Mont Belvieu High School if he didn’t cut his dreadlocks. This past Sunday, he made headlines again after walking the Oscars red carpet with the team behind Oscar-winning animated short Hair Love.
The Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short Film is based on director Matthew A. Cherry’s children’s book of the same name, where a black father tries to help his daughter take pride in her natural hair. Cherry and producers Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade invited the 18-year-old to the Oscars last week. The full animated short can be viewed down below.
Arnold was suspended when his school told him the dreadlocks he’d been growing since the seventh grade were “too long.” Last month, Arnold appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to tell his story and Alicia Keys presented him a $20,000 check for his college tuition.
In a video posted online, Union announced the invitation, “When we heard about your story, and you just wanting to wear your hair the way you want, at school, and all this scrutiny that you faced and how unwavering you have been in standing up for yourself, we knew that we had to get involved.” Union and Wade, paid for Arnold and his mother to attend the Oscars.
“Every day I would go to school, I would always be in dress code,” he said during his appearance. “But the thing with them is, if it was let down, I would be out of dress code. If girls can have long hair, why can’t I have long hair?
“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 on Twitter.
Stories like Arnold’s happen all too often, especially in schools. Last year, another school in Texas came under fire when staff used a black sharpie marker to color a seventh-grade student’s haircut after they deemed it a dress code violation. Or, another school denied an eight-year-old girl from taking school pictures because her staff stated she violated the dress code.
It also isn’t happening in just schools; Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley recently co-sponsored a bill to ban discrimination based on hair texture and style in December. The CROWN Act (Acronym: Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) was directly called out by Cherry in his acceptance speech.
“Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation, we wanted to normalize black hair and there’s a very important issue out there, the CROWN Act. If we can help get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like Deandre Arnold’s … stop to happen,” Cherry said.
Watch the Oscar-winning Hair Love: