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Does Zendaya’s Oscars Barbie Contribute to the Erasure of Black Women with Real Locs?

Avatar • Sep 28, 2015

It’s a moment that’s been seared into pop culture history. Then 18-year-old Zendaya Coleman showed up to the Oscars in a Vivienne Westwood gown and faux locs decorated with hair jewelry.

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The look was representative of the starlet’s style diversity and fresh take on fashion. But in an attempt to be funny, Giuliana Rancic trashed the look on Fashion Police saying Coleman looked like she smelled of “patchouli oil and weed.” The comment enraged many, and was very telling of how many Americans still view locs.

Zendaya’s classy Instagram response only emphasized how tasteless Rancic’s comments truly were.

There is a fine line between what is funny and disrespectful. Someone said something about my hair at the Oscars that left me in awe. Not because I was relishing in rave outfit reviews, but because I was hit with ignorant slurs and pure disrespect. To say that an 18 year old young woman with locs must smell of patchouli oil or “weed” is not only a large stereotype but outrageously offensive…

There is already harsh criticism of African American hair in society without the help of ignorant people who choose to judge others based on the curl of their hair. My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough. To me locs are a symbol of strength and beauty, almost like a lion’s mane.” 

Barbie’s announcement of a Zendaya Oscars doll as part of their Raise Your Voices initiative was a strong statement of inclusion and support for Coleman and loc’ed girls everywhere. The doll is absolutely gorgeous although it’s (unfortunately!) not available for purchase.

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Instagram.com/carlylenuera

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Instagram.com/carlylenuera

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Instagram.com/carlylenuera

Black women on social media responded with overwhelming support and excitement about the Barbie, but a few felt that it contributed to the erasure of black women with locs, and expressed that in this LSA forum.

Zendaya became this overnight hero after wearing faux dreadlocks when millions of BLACK women wear real dreads all the time.

But if Barbies can have locs after this Z doll, I wanna see some dark skinned gals loc’d up in plastic form as well

they understand the controversy that lady on Fashion Police caused when she made that comment about Zendaya and her fake locks and they want to capitalize off of it.

While Coleman brought visibility to locs on the Oscars red carpet, she was also participating in a trend that many loc’ed naturals have expressed discomfort with.

To be fair Barbie did create a limited edition doll of history-making loc’ed Selma director Ava Duvernay as part of their Sheroes collection.

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But the fact remains that black women with real locs still have very low visibility in the entertainment world. And when locs do appear they are not cast as chic, stylish and representative of feminine beauty. When Naomie Harris played a voodoo witch (ugh!) in Pirates of the Caribbean, she sported dark eye makeup, blackened teeth and faux locs.

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And in movie World War Z, the zombie that is singled out as most heinous and dangerous is black with locs, played by actress Sarah Amankwah. (Incidentally she is also the only black woman character in the film… *sigh*)

In a recent interview, singer and actress Brandy stated that, if it wasn’t for her career she would have locs.

Even in the post-apocalyptic thriller The Walking Dead, breakout character Michonne’s (played by Danai Gurira) locs are very much part of her warrior woman character.

Where are the representations of real locs as beautifully feminine? Perhaps the mainstream isn’t receptive to that idea yet and more comfortable with the look as a trend.

To be clear we are excited about the gorgeous Zendaya Barbie! But we are also waiting for the day when actresses like Yanni King, who sported locs for many years before a recent big chop, are seen — really SEEN — for the tremendous beauty they possess.

yanni

Ladies, what are your thoughts?

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Mercy Iyere
Mercy Iyere
5 years ago

I can see the idea, but this is why I really don’t want to bother with social justice activism anymore. I thought this was a win, even though there’s still a lot to do. But some one somewhere will always complain about how the next step forward wasn’t a big enough leap. If nothing I do is ever going to be dramatic enough to not get complaints from the activist crowd, why bother doing anything at all if anything less than 1000% correct is a 0?

Lynnb029
Lynnb029
5 years ago

Good grief!!! can we stop with this?!!! At some point, somebody has to kick down the door, and let diversity in. If its light skin Zendaya with faux locs, so BE IT! We just need somebody, one of ours in, so the rest, of all different strips can follow!!! IJS!!! JFC!!!

cryssi
cryssi
5 years ago

I don’t think so, but I’m not loc’d so I can’t say that I could fully grasp their possible dismay.

America does move slow as far as diversification goes. Look how long it took to finally see naturals on major platforms. I hope and believe we will begin to see loc’d beauties everywhere as well.

Yoli
Yoli
5 years ago

Did we really have to make Zendaya getting a barbie made in her image into a controversy? She wore a hairstyle to the oscars. Just like she wore certain style of dress to the awards ceremony. So should I be upset when a “non-natrual” wears a curly/coily/kinky wig or crochet braids because she didn’t go throw the struggle of transitioning or the possible shock of a big chop? She appears to be a talented, intelligent, beautiful girl who I believe will stay out of trouble, that many young celebrities get themselves into, for many years to come. The Barbie is… Read more »

SheridaDaily
5 years ago
Reply to  Yoli

I agree! And I saw nothing but praise on Twitter and Instagram for her. Apart from 1 or 2 trolls, which is to be expected when you’re successful DUH! And yes I understand that this dialogue is valid and important, but please lets not dull her shine. Focus less on her measure of blackness and more on her excellence.

I’m very proud of her.

MrZazzles
MrZazzles
5 years ago
Reply to  Yoli

*Slow cap turns to standing ovation* Exactly!

dedesantos
dedesantos
5 years ago

I don’t think it erases black women with natural dread locs I think it highlight diversity and a nod to zendaya for being so poised and mature in handling the fashion racist critique of the faux locks she was wearing. Also random, but relating to the article, actress Ruth Negga was in world war z as well, she’s half Ethiopian/ half Irish. I’m not undermining your overall point though, I do agree that in the media’s eyes, locks are still looked down on.

d
d
5 years ago

Glad to see locs showcased but they did wait until they could find a light skinned half AA woman to represent a style mostly found on dark skinned AA women. Just the usual.

M.
M.
5 years ago
Reply to  d

Yay let’s take something good and be catty about it because she’s not the “right shade of black”. Let’s not care that her father is a dark-skinned man with locs. I’m a light-skinned black woman and I want to fight for our community but I’m so sick of these kind of comments. The fact that people can say something like this, when we should be all standing together, is really depressing. I would never criticize a dark-skinned woman’s achievement because she’s “too black”. Da hell is wrong with u.
I’m so done with people on this website, this is becoming ridiculous.

The Darling Kinkshamer
The Darling Kinkshamer
5 years ago
Reply to  M.

How about locs that are not extensions?
Also, colorism is real, “d”, has a point.

d
d
5 years ago

Wow, I didn’t see this photo anywhere else, Thanks BGLH!

Epiphany Stone
Epiphany Stone
5 years ago

Why do so many articles on BGWLH have to keep stoking the color divide within the black community? News flash… if you are African American and not strait off the plane from the African continent YOU ARE MIXED.…period. Somewhere in your family tree is some Caucasian blood, even if you are dark skinned. That is just the way things are in America. Ancestry.com and National Geographic have the tests to order to see the breakdown. The only thing holding us back in this world is ourselves and stupid myopic mindsets. The black community in America is like a house divided.… Read more »

Britt
Britt
5 years ago
Reply to  Epiphany Stone

peach sis!

o
o
5 years ago

I think barbie wanted to be a media whore and capitalize on a moment. But in reality my opinion is hardly anyone cares (enough) about the black persons plight natural or permed and I think its silly to keep fighting it. It’s not going to change. Too many cowardly and ignorant people still alive for it to be able to change. Zendaya is half black (but black nonetheless) with fake locs.…..her daddy has/had real locs…where’s his Ken doll? Lol

o
o
5 years ago

I think barbie wanted to be a media whore and capitalize on a moment. But in reality my opinion is hardly anyone cares (enough) about the black persons plight natural or permed and I think its silly to keep fighting it. It’s not going to change. Too many cowardly and ignorant people still alive for it to be able to change. Zendaya is half black (but black nonetheless) with fake locs.…..her daddy has/had real locs…where’s his Ken doll? Lol.

NoTime4Bimbos
NoTime4Bimbos
4 years ago
Reply to  o

Hold up, your comment, “Zendaya is half black (but black nonetheless)”…Please note that this does not make her black. How can one be black if they are, “half black?’ No. Her father is black and her mother is german, irish, English and Scottish. This would not make her black. She is Mixed (black, german, irish, English and Scottish). Example: a german person could say that she’s german, etc. We don’t get to pick and choose our heritage.To say that she is black is the same as dissing her mother. She is of mixed heritage. There is no dominant gene. We… Read more »

Sithé Annette Ncube
Sithé Annette Ncube
5 years ago

I love the doll! It will remain iconic. I have locs. I love my locs. Not everybody is patient enough to commit so power to those who do. I do wish more women would give it a go so the world is more comfortable with our beauty and culture but eh people already have a hard time committing to natural hair without hiding or altering it. Just makes women with real locs more special so whatevs.

Britt
Britt
5 years ago

I couldn’t agree more! all of these women are beautiful and Julian ran-whatever is a nut, it’s her job to say these kinds of things. Sometimes I feel like we spend too much time swatting at the nats, I personally don’t care much for the faux locs i love the real dread look, but some of these women don’t want the lifestyle commitment of locs, and more power to them as well ‑many look very beautiful ‑especially the Z doll! Barbie may be capitalizing on a moment, but it’s still small progress

MrZazzles
MrZazzles
5 years ago

why are you mediating and removing my comments? not one of them was mean or overly critical.

Cosita
Cosita
5 years ago

Not all Americans feel the same way. I loved her locs. If you click the LSA link in this article you will see comments like “f$% Americans. they are not black.” I don’t think everyone in Africa thinks that way when I read that although there are people who post on here who do.

April
April
5 years ago

Right…and all of the “pirates” were unkempt looking, not just her.

The Darling Kinkshamer
The Darling Kinkshamer
5 years ago

I always thought that Naomi Harris was beautiful, despite that awful makeup they put on her. Then I googled her. O.O Whoa, she deserves more glamorous roles as she’s also a fantastic actress.

Ronnie
Ronnie
4 years ago

Doesn’t matter if you have loc extensions, cultivated traditional locs, Sisterlocs, freeform locs, semi-freeform locs, long locs, or short locs, gray-haired locs or flaming red locs, people will prejudge you and perhaps even profile you if you have locs.

That said, as a loc’ed natural, I don’t apologize for wishing to see more black women with real locs in mainstream films/TV with major positive roles.

uhoh-ohno
uhoh-ohno
5 years ago

The thing is, The Ava DuVernay Barbie doesn’t look like she has locs. She looks like she has braids, which is strange because DuVernay wears her hair loc’ed.

kate carroll
kate carroll
5 years ago

I thought Calypso was a sea goddess trapped in human form, not a voodoo witch…

Jd23
Jd23
5 years ago

You’re never going to make everybody happy in the natural hair community. Somebody will always have something to say. I have locs and I love that zendaya showcased locs in such a positive way. And the fact that she gets a Barbie for it is awesome. Sidenote, Michonne in the Walking Dead is a fierce warrior, but she is also seen as sexy and desirable among Walking Dead fans.

MrZazzles
MrZazzles
5 years ago

So this win.…is not really a win? So it’s like, 75% win? Smh.

mel
mel
5 years ago

I get where this article is going but I also want to highlight something. Even within the black community locs are still associated with being dirty and smoking weed. And natural hair is still seen as a negative thing in general. I think we first of all need to embrace ourselves and accept the diversity in our community. We seriously need to set new standards for ourselves. We need to stop waiting for mainstream media to showcase us. They have had so many chances to do so but they dont take them. Let us continue with sites such as these, our… Read more »

Lentwa
Lentwa
5 years ago

I am just another African girl noticing that when the discussion is about appropriation of African culture, African Americans complain and say they can’t appropriate what is already their heritage. When Zendaya, does the same, suddenly she is not black enough and her hair is not naturally locd up, therefore the doll made in her honor represents erasure of black women with real locs. Honestly if you look at the doll all you see is a black with locs and black comes in many shades. Also there is too much complaining about the media not recognizing black beauty. The reality is… Read more »

Chifoo
Chifoo
5 years ago

You cant be serious. Reaching. If the doll had straight hair you’d make an article. You make it sound like she only got a doll because her locs are fake.

Erin
Erin
5 years ago

So are we saying this is not impactful because Zendaya is not black (she is) or because she is light skinned? Either way, we have to get out of this “not black enough” and away from colorism. It only divides us further!

bsbfankaren
bsbfankaren
5 years ago

I have to say I’m disappointed in this article. Zendaya is a biracial young woman whose black father wears locs. Using her as the topic of this article smacks of the insidious “black enough” disrespect many black women have had to endure in our lifetimes. Isn’t it time to lay that slavery era bigotry to rest?

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