E! Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic made a huge mess of things when she said that Black teenager Zendaya Coleman’s dreadlocks make her look like “she smells like patchouli oil and weed.”
Rancic’s comments do not necessarily make her a racist, but she did expose a troubling double-standard about beauty in Hollywood: apparently, traditional Black attributes are only celebrated when they adorn non-Black people.
There were scores of Black actresses on the scene with full lips and hips—long before America fell in awe over J. Lo’s full hips and Angelina Jolie’s full lips—yet those Black actresses were ignored.
Rancic practiced that double standard when she celebrated White teenager Kylie Jenner’s ’locs as being ‘edgy,’ and definitely not smelling of patchouli oil and weed.
What Rancic had to learn the hard way is that Black hairstyles are a political hot potato within the Black community, with naturals shaming the permed; the dyed shaming the weaved; and the shaved heads shaming everybody, and thus as a White woman, she was way out of line with that hair insult.
Further, when Black Twitter exposed Rancic’s adoration for Kylie’s ’locs, she was exposed as fashion hypocrite.
Zendaya eloquently defended her decision to wear a natural hairstyle on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, and she clapped back at Rancic: “To say that an 18-year-old young woman with ’locs must smell like patchouli oil and weed is not only a large stereotype but outrageously offensive.”
Outrageously offensive indeed; E! Fashion Police co-host Kelly Osbourne walked away from the show over the debacle.
The damage control is in full swing, with Rancic’s apology to Zendaya on Twitter. The spin control continues today with The Wrap’s report that Rancic did not write the joke about Zendaya’s hair.
(If a joke writer did put that mess on paper, it wasn’t a member of the Writers Guild of America; they have been on strike from E! Fashion Police since April 2013.)
Rancic issued yet another public apology while hosting E! News: “I didn’t intend to hurt anybody, but I’ve learned it’s not my intent that matters, it’s the result,” she said.
Hopefully the outrage has produced one positive result; Hollywood has been taught that natural Black hair should never be a punch-line.
Now when we end the good hair vs. bad hair wars within the Black community, we can celebrate progress.
Zondra Hughes is the CEO of Six Brown Chicks women’s lifestyle blog. Follow her on Twitter @ZondraHughes.