Former NFL wide receiver Matthew Cherry took home a different kind of trophy on Sunday night after winning an Oscar for his inspiring short film Hair Love.
The short about an African-American father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time won for Best Animated Short at the 92nd Academy Awards, where Cherry pointed to the issue of representation in the media. He also gave a shoutout to a cause close to his heart — the fight against hair discrimination in schools and the workplace.
“Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation,” Cherry shared during his acceptance speech on Sunday night. “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 story like Deandre Arnold's who is our special guest tonight, stop [from] happening.”
Cherry and his producer Karen Toliver brought Arnold to the award show as their guest after the Texas teen was told he couldn’t graduate unless he cut his dreadlocks. Cherry mentioned Arnold’s story during an interview with Yahoo Entertainment where he said, “We shouldn't be trying to put our own Eurocentric standards of beauty upon everyone.
“We really went into this with the intention of helping normalize black hair,” he continued. “In a lot of ways, black hair is policed and even nowadays you can't wear your hair certain ways depending on what job you have.”
Both Hair Love and Arnold have received widespread support for being outspoken about normalizing black hair. Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade have even celebrated the film and its message alongside Cherry, Toliver and Arnold.
“This award is dedicated to Kobe,” Cherry said. “May we all have a second act as great as his was.”
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