His Texas school district didn’t listen when high school senior DeAndre Arnold spoke up about the importance of growing his locs. But celebrities like Matthew A. Cherry, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade have assured Arnold that he’s not alone.
Cherry, Union and Wade surprised Arnold with an invitation to attend the upcoming Academy Awards as their guest. They’re all part of the team behind “Hair Love,” an Oscar-nominated animated short film that tells the story of a Black father who wears his own hair in locs and learns to do his daughter’s hair.
Arnold made headlines last week when his family revealed that he would be barred from walking at his upcoming graduation unless he cut his locs. Under his school’s guidelines on hair length, the teen’s locs ― a hairstyle rooted in Black pride, culture and sometimes religion ― are considered too long.
“Since Deandre Arnold’s school didnt want to let him walk at his graduation because of his hair we figured that he should walk with us on the red carpet at the #Oscars as our special guest,” Cherry, the writer and director of “Hair Love,” tweeted on Friday.
Cherry noted in a later tweet that Union and Wade, producers of “Hair Love,” are flying the teen and his mother, Sandy Arnold, out to Los Angeles for the Oscars on Feb. 9. The celebrity couple will also cover the family’s lodging and car service costs.
Personal care brand Dove, a sponsor of “Hair Love,” will give Arnold and his mother the “red carpet treatment” by covering their ticket costs and wardrobe for the ceremony, Cherry said.
“When we heard about your story, and you just wanting to wear your hair the way you want at school ... and all the scrutiny that you faced and how unwavering you have been, we also knew that we had to get involved,” Union said in a video message to Arnold.
Wade added in the video that he and Union are “big fans” of the teen.
“It’s crazy ― I never thought that people like D Wade and Gabrielle Union would be ... on my side,” Arnold told “CBS This Morning” on Friday in response to the video. “The film is about hair love, and me and my hair kind of grew up together. In a way, it’s like we’re best friends.”
He added that the invitation to the Oscars “means so much.”
Arnold, who has been growing his locs since seventh grade, was recently told that his hair is not in compliance with the “Dress and Grooming” policy at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas. The policy, as it appears on the school district’s website, prohibits male students from having hair that extends below the earlobes.
Arnold had previously worn his hair pinned up at school to remain in compliance, but his family said the school district has revised its policy to include more restrictions on hair length.
During his appearance Wednesday on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Arnold noted that he has been placed on in-school suspension due to his locs. Since cutting his hair is not a real option for him, the teen said his choices moving forward would be either to remain on in-school suspension or to shift to an alternative school.
DeGeneres teamed up with Alicia Keys to present Arnold with a $20,000 gift during her show.
Last week, shortly after Arnold’s story emerged, Union tweeted her support for the teenager, telling him to “KEEP FIGHTING!!!”
“They truly believe if you stay quiet, they’ve won,” she wrote at the time. “Don’t be quiet. Do not let this stand.”