Zendaya reflected on Giuliana Rancic’s infamous comments about her locs at the 2015 Oscars, in which the TV host perpetuated racist stereotypes about Black hair, in a W Magazine cover story interview published on Monday,
During a segment on E!’s “Fashion Police” in February 2015, Rancic commented on Zendaya, who was rocking faux locs and wearing a Vivienne Westwood gown, saying she looked as if she smelled like “patchouli oil” and “weed.”
Zendaya, who was 18 at the time, expertly responded to Rancic on social media by pointing out that Black people have faced a long history of discrimination for wearing traditional Black hairstyles. She called Rancic’s comments “outrageously offensive.”
The actor, who teamed up with her “Malcolm & Marie” co-star John David Washington to serve as W Magazine’s cover stars, told the publication that her public response to the TV host was an example of how “change happens.”
“It made me think, ‘How could I always have a lasting impact on what people saw and associated with people of color?’” she said.
Zendaya memorably took Rancic’s comments as an opportunity to address why her remarks were problematic and to spotlight Black people – including celebrities such as Ava DuVernay and Ledisi – who choose to wear their hair in locs. The actor also noted that her father proudly wears his hair in the natural hair style. (See her full statement in 2015 below.)
Rancic tweeted an apology to Zendaya the night the segment aired and followed up with an on-air statement apologizing for her remarks the next day.
“I want to say to Zendaya, and anyone else out there that I have hurt, that I am so so sincerely sorry,” she said at the time, in part. “This really has been a learning experience for me ― I’ve learned a lot today ― and this incident has taught me to be a lot more aware of clichés and stereotypes, how much damage they can do. And that I am responsible, as we all are, to not perpetuate them further.”
Zendaya said on “Good Morning America” in April that year that she took her time to reflect on how she wanted to respond to Rancic before releasing her statement because she wanted her words to help uplift other young people.
“Whether it be a little girl out there or a young man out there that was able to read that and see positive change and stand up for themselves in any kind of incident in their life, then I did what I’m supposed to do,” she said.
Zendaya and Washington’s black-and-white film directed by Sam Levinson, “Malcolm & Marie,” was released on Netflix last month.
Read their entire profile in W Magazine here.