‘Hair Love’ Director Brings Teen Who Was Told To Cut Dreadlocks To The Oscars

by Sarah Bregel
Sarah Bregel is an editor at LittleThings.com covering entertainment, trending stories, adorable stuff, parenting, and more. She is also a freelance writer, mom of two, dog mom, feminist, and deep-breather.

Hair Love is the animated story of a black man who must learn how to do his daughter’s hair, and it’s an important film for our time.

Because of the important message and the racial component to the film, director Matthew A. Cherry chose to bring a special guest to the Oscars red carpet along with him to draw attention to that message even further. That guest was Deandre Arnold, a Texas high school student who was told he couldn’t attend graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks.

The boy’s story got national attention. He got to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and the publicity prompted the Texas Legislative Black Caucus to work up a bill that would ban discrimination based on certain hairstyles that are commonly associated with race.

The topic may be controversial, but Hair Love is definitely feeling the love. It earned an Oscar last night for best animated short. Clearly, the topic struck a chord with many and brought attention to an issue that needed to be addressed.

This film has such an important message. So it was powerful when that message came through on the red carpet. When director Matthew A. Cherry, who played football for the Baltimore Ravens, showed up with his special guest, all eyes were on them.

“It means the world to us to have him here with us,” Matthew said. “We wanted people to see how good of a kid he is, but also there’s no reason people should be policing our hair.” While it’s something many of us don’t even have to think about, people of color are no stranger to having their hair commented on or policed.

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Living a dream with my dream girl 🏆

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The teen definitely appreciated being at the Academy Awards, as well as the attention his story has gotten. He said that it has been “validating.” He’s gotten backing from Matthew as well as other celebrities.

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🏆 👸🏾

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DeAndre appeared on Ellen recently, and Alicia Keys gave him a check for $20,000 toward his education. He said he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to attend his high school graduation ceremony because his hair violates the school dress code. Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done surrounding this issue.

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Team #HairLove + Deandre & Sandy Arnold #Oscars

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The short film is definitely doing a great job of addressing these issues in a way that is easily digestible for most people. The director, who was a football player, says it was important for him to make the film for many reasons. But his inspiration was to have more representation in animation while helping to normalize black hair and put an end to discrimination.

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Thank you @blackreelawards for the recognition 💜

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Matthew Cherry’s film came about in an interesting way, too. He actually created a Kickstarter to get it off the ground. But soon after he launched the campaign, it took off, and he gained more support than he’d imagined.

Matthew’s campaign began with an initial goal of $75,000. But word spread, and it went on to raise over $300,000. That’s the most ever money raised for a short film project on the fundraising site.

Then, in March 2019, Sony Pictures acquired the short film and released it later that same year. Now we all get to enjoy the amazing film and appreciate the cinematic masterpiece that it is. But even more importantly, so many more people will have an understanding of these issues that they might not have been familiar with if it weren’t for the film.

In his acceptance speech, Matthew made a point to address some important issues, too, of course. He referenced California’s CROWN Act, which seeks to ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles. It was a great moment with a wonderful purpose.

After Sunday night, the wide receiver turned filmmaker is also now an Oscar winner. Matthew A. Cherry and the short film won big, taking home the award for best animated short.

Now just about everyone is feeling the hair love.