LOS ANGELES — “Hair Love” director Matthew A. Cherry brought a special guest to the Oscars red carpet—Deandre Arnold, a Texas high school student who was told he couldn’t attend graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks.
Arnold’s story brought national attention and prompted the Texas Legislative Black Caucus to work up a bill that would ban discrimination based on hair textures and styles commonly associated with race. Cherry was eager to lend his support—his film about a young black girl who asks her inexperienced father to help style her hair is nominated for best animated short.
“It means the world to us to have him here with us,” Cherry 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.”
Arnold said it’s been “validating” to get backing from Cherry and other celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, who gifted him $20,000 toward his education.
“I’m standing strong because of the support system I have behind me,” Arnold said.
"Hair Love" won the Oscar for best animated short film. In his speech, Arnold spoke about his desire to show more representation and normalize black hair.
"If we can help to get this passed in all 50 states, it will help stories like Deandre Arnold's...stop [from happening]," Cherry said.
Cherry, a former professional football player, also dedicated his win to the late Oscar-winner Kobe Bryant.
"May we all have a second act as great as his was," Cherry said.