Search Artz of Culturez

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Minority Opinion: Zendaya, Rancic Works it Out

     Giuliana Rancic      vs.      Zendaya Coleman

It's been about a week since celebrities walked the Red Carpet at the 87th Academy Awards. I skipped the ceremony due to a migraine which got worse after I scrolled through my social media feeds to see what I missed the night before. Turns out that Giuliana Rancic of The Fashion Police didn't approve of Zendaya Coleman's dreads and said the 18 year old looks like "she smells like patchouli oil and weed." 


Coleman's intelligent response to Rancic started to circle on social media:

Rancic then sent out an apology on Twitter:

Observers weren't happy with Rancic's response so she took another shot at an apology the following evening on-air. “This really has been a learning experience for me,” Rancic stated. “I’ve learned a lot today, and this incident has taught me to be a lot more aware of clich├ęs and stereotypes, how much damage they can do. And that I am responsible, as we all are, to not perpetuate them further.”

Although some people didn't think Rancic was sincere Coleman thought it was good enough and sent out another intelligent response:

Observer comments via Instagram
So, Coleman and Rancic worked out their differences. Great. But why would Rancic even say that the young lady "smells like patchouli oil and weed," to begin with? The only reason I can come up with is that Rancic was trying to keep the spirit of the late comedian, Joan Rivers alive. 

Rivers never held her tongue when it came to poking fun at celebrities on the Red Carpet. It's just what she did to celebrities. It's what a lot of comedians do. However, Rancic is not a comedian she's an entertainment correspondent and her viewers may think that it's OK to associate everyone wearing dreads with marijuana and patchouli oil. 

To be honest, I didn't even know what patchouli oil was until my friend Stephanie and I were discussing the Coleman and Rancic story. "But you're Jamaican! You should know what patchouli oil is." Stephanie's assumption didn't surprise or upset me. "Just because I am Jamaican doesn't mean that we all dread our hair and use patchouli oil. I only have one Rastafarian cousin who wears dreads and I don't recall him smelling of anything."

Stephanie, who is not of Caribbean descent, proceeded to educate me on the basics of the oil and how it is used. This conversation made me think about Rancic. Does she have any Rastafarian friends or associates with dreads? Does she have any colleagues who will take the time to break things down for her if she doesn't know something about other cultures? Does she have the confidence to approach and ask a person of color about the maintenance of their hair without sounding too intrusive? Is there even a way to do that?

TCsViews in Twists
When the Coleman and Rancic battle started, I had just gotten my hair twisted with hair extensions to protect my natural hair from the fierce winter weather. After hearing what Rancic said about Coleman, I had to mentally prepare myself to go into work the following week with my new hairstyle. I had to prepare for the stares, the second glances, and the list of questions from my White co-workers who probably doesn't have Black friends outside of work. 

You see, I work in 'White Corporate America' where there is only one other Black American woman working on the editorial staff. Any time I do something different with my hair, my White co-workers usually asks a range of questions that makes me feel like I am being crossed examined on the witness stand. 

When I straighten my hair:

  • "Did you cut your hair? ... No. I blowed it out and flat ironed it. As you can see, it's longer." 
  • "Did you change your hair for a hot date? ... No. I changed it because I can."
  • "What happened to your afro? ... It's still there. I just wanted something different. It will be back when I wash it."
  • "Oh. So you don't wash your hair every day? ... It depends on the day."
  • "How much did it cost to color, blowout and straighten your hair? ... I do my own hair. I only pay for a box of hair color."

When I put my hair in extensions: 

  • "Oh wow! Your hair is longer? What did you do? ... I put them in twists."
  • "How long did it take? ... Six hours."
  • "Does it hurt? ... Yes."
  • "I bet that costs a lot of money. ... I was able to afford it."
  • "How long will it last? ... Until I am ready to take it out."
  • "Did you use Indian hair, like what Chris Rock was talking about in the movie Good Hair?... Why does it even matter?)

OK, I know my answers are short, but it drives me crazy to answer these questions in the office. Most of my White co-workers who are asking me these questions barley talks to me any other time throughout the day. And I just get a little annoyed when I have to entertain them about my hair in front of an office full of people who never takes the time or day to get to know me outside of the office. I would be happy to take the time to explain things to them but just not in the office. There is a time and place for cultural education. Why can't they just break the ice over a lunch outing or an after work drink? What are they scared of?

This time around, none of my White coworkers asked me about my hair extensions. I wonder if they were taking caution given the Coleman & Rancic patchouli oil dread head debate? They shouldn't be. If anything they should take the time to get to know people outside of their race and not make assumptions. 

The lesson I learned from all of this is that we all should take a moment to befriend people from different backgrounds and learn about their culture. And if becoming friends with someone new is not in your plans, then at least take the time to educate yourself before publicly saying something offensive like Rancic did. It's a lesson that we all should learn from.

What lesson did you learn from the Coleman & Rancic fiasco? Leave your comments below or email your views to


No comments:

Weekly E-Letter

There's nothing to think about, just signup for Arts + Cultures Recap right here, right now.