A Texas teen, who gained national attention after his Mont Belvieu high school said he couldn’t walk at his graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks, was welcomed with open arms at the Oscars red carpet on Sunday night, Feb. 9.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) February 10, 2020
DeAndre Arnold attended this year’s Academy Awards as a guest of some of the creators of the animated film, “Hair Love,” the short film about a black father, who also has dreadlocks, learning how to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.
The “Hair Love” film, which has earned much praise in recent months for its celebration of black hair, won the Oscar for Animated Short. CBSLA reported.
Arnold was invited to attend the ceremony after director Matthew A. Cherry, former NBA player Dwyane Wade, and actress Gabrielle Union, one of the producers on the movie, heard his story.
Last month, Arnold, 18, was told that he wouldn’t be able to walk at graduation if he did not cut his dreadlocks shorter to be in compliance with the Barbers Hill Independent School District’s hair length policy, according to The Hill.
The teen made an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to talk about the issue.
He said the biggest reason why he refuses to cut his hair is that his locks are a representation of his Trinidadian culture and because his father is from Trinidad, NBC News reported.
“It’s part of our culture and our heritage,” he said. “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.”
Arnold and his mother appeared on the red carpet alongside Cherry and producer Karen Rupert Toliver.
“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.
The school district has since faced backlash over the policy, which many critics have condemned as “racist” in recent weeks amid the ongoing controversy.
Cherry 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 said.