WATCH: Oscar Winners School World On Beauty and Brilliance of Black Hair

By Ayana Byrd Feb 10, 2020

In an Oscar season that was defiantly White and male—just one Black person was nominated in the acting categories (Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet”) and no women were up for best director—there were two wins that weren’t just historic, but breakthrough.

Korean class thriller “Parasitewon Best International Feature Film, Original Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Director for Bong Joon Ho. It is the first time a non-English language film has won Best Picture.

But perhaps more surprising than “Parasite”’s domination was the Oscar going to a film all about the beauty and culture of Black hair. “Hair Love,” a six-minute short about a Black father styling his young daughter’s hair, won for Animated Short Film. During the acceptance speech, producer Karen Rupert Toliver and director (and former NFL player) Matthew Cherry reminded audiences why their film wasn’t just good—but necessary.

“We have a firm belief that representation matters deeply,” said Toliver. “Especially in cartoons, because in cartoons that’s how we first see our movies and how we shape our lives and think about how we see the world.”

Cherry emphasized the politics behind Black hair—and specifically the push for federal legislation that will prohibit discrimination based on hair texture—saying, “There’s a very important issue that’s out there, the Crown Act. And if we can get that passed in all 50 states, it will help stories like Deandre Arnold’s [a high school senior in Mont Belvieu, Texas, banned from his prom and threatened with not walking at graduation if he didn’t cut his locs], who’s our special guest tonight.”

Watch the short film here.