Though DeAndre Arnold may not be able to walk at his graduation, he got to walk down somewhere way cool: the red carpet at the Oscars.
DeAndre Arnold is a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu in Southeast Texas. In December last year, he was suspended and barred from walking at his graduation for refusing to cut off his dreadlocks. School authorities attempted to persuade Arnold his natural hair was against school policy though he had been in dress code throughout his high school career. African hairstyles have long been politicized in the United States as they are seen as "unprofessional" or "unkempt." Despite being forced to attend "alternative school," usually attended by students engaging in illegal activity, this black teen refuses to back down. Through his fight, he's befriended quite the number of people. Arnold has already appeared on The Ellen Show and even gained the support of Senator Cory Booker. Most recently, he had the opportunity to attend the 92nd Academy Awards with none other than the team behind the empowering animated short film Hair Love.
Hair Love is an adorable animated short film directed by Matthew A. Cherry and co-produced with Karen Rupert Toliver. In the film, a young black girl is seen struggling to do her hair. Her mother, who usually does her hair, is away. Thus, her father must style her hair for the first time. Chaos ensues. The heartwarming film gained an Oscar nomination this year in the Best Animated Short Film - and won! Arnold was right there in the crowd to see the moment in person as he was invited to attend the awards evening by the Hair Love team. In photos that went viral overnight, the teen was spotted walking the red carpet at the Oscars alongside Cherry and Toliver.
Prior to the event, director Cherry said the Hair Love team, including actress Gabrielle Union and her husband, NBA star Dwyane Wade, was proud to invite Arnold to the Academy Awards. "It's truly an honor to have the platform to be able to invite Deandre and his family as our guest to the Oscars next Sunday," he stated in an interview with CNN. "Deandre is such a good kid, and he shouldn't be punished for his hair. And we love that he didn't bend to the pressure to cut it. We think his hair is beautiful and this is the least we could do to support him and show him love. Looking forward to meeting him." On the big day, Arnold arrived dressed to the nines with the whole Hair Love crew.
The invitation was particularly special as Arnold was able to witness Hair Love take home the Oscar in a monumental victory. "We have a firm belief that representation matters deeply," Toliver stated in his acceptance speech. "Especially in cartoons. Because in cartoons, that's how we first see our movies, and that's how we shape our lives and how we see the world." Cherry added, "Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation, and we wanted to normalize black hair. There's a very important issue that's out there, the CROWN Act, and if we can help get this passed in all 50 states, we can help stories like DeAndre Arnold's to stop from happening." The CROWN Act, introduced by Senator Booker, would finally make it illegal to discriminate against those with stereotypically African hairstyles because students like DeAndre deserve better.
WE LOVE TO SEE IT!#HairLove director @MatthewACherry, producer Karen Rupert Toliver and #DeandreArnold, the teen suspended from school for wearing dreads. Rooting for you!!!— Hello Beautiful (@HelloBeautiful) February 9, 2020
See more of the bold, the Black and the beautiful at the 92nd #Oscars: https://t.co/ZVuUpWKfOt pic.twitter.com/hHq0vGLrCi