LOS ANGELES (CBSDFW.COM) – DeAndre Arnold, a teenager from Texas who was forced to either cut his dreadlocks or miss his graduation, attended the Oscars Sunday evening as a guest of the team behind the animated short film “Hair Love.”
Arnold has gained national attention for his stand against Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu (about 32 miles east of Houston) as he was told by officials that he must cut his hair due to the school’s dress code policy, which doesn’t allow male students’ hair to go below the eyebrows or ear lobes.
Over a week ago, the nationwide support for Arnold reached “Hair Love” director Matthew A. Cherry and producers Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union. All three personally invited Arnold to the Oscars through video messages.
“Hair Love,” which took home the Oscar for best animated short film, follows a black father who is styling his young daughter’s hair for the first time.
During his acceptance speech, Cherry mentioned Arnold as he talked about supporting the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World of Natural Hair) Act, which looks ensure protection against discrimination of hair styles in schools and the workplace.
“Hair Love was done because we wanted to see representation in animation. We wanted to normalize black hair. There’s a very important issue that’s out there, the CROWN Act. And if we can help to get this passed in all 50 states, it will help stories like DeAndre Arnold, who’s our special guest tonight, stop to happen,” Cherry said on stage.
So far, the CROWN Act has been signed into law in California, New Jersey and New York. According to the CROWN Act’s website, 22 states are also considering it.
Supporters of Arnold claim his school’s policy is discriminatory and that it shouldn’t dictate whether or not the 18-year-old should be allowed to walk at graduation.
Arnold remains away from the school as district officials continue to stand by their policy.
“Hopefully, I’m the catalyst for more cultural acknowledgment and less cultural ignorance so that’s my goal here,” Arnold told KTRK before the Oscars.
Along with the Oscars invite, Arnold also appeared on “The Ellen Show” in late January, where he received a $20,000 scholarship from singer Alicia Keys and Ellen DeGeneres.