It's been six years since one of Zendaya's hairstyles inadvertently sparked a major social conversation, and the actor is proud that she had the courage to speak out at the time.
In a new interview with W Magazine, the 24-year-old discusses her role in the Netflix film "Malcolm & Marie" and also looks back on some of the formative moments of her career, like that time she attended the Academy Awards in 2015 and wore her hair in long dreadlocks.
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During red carpet coverage of the event, E! news anchor Giuliana Rancic made the following comment about Zendaya's hair that instantly sparked controversy: "I feel like she smells like patchouli oil ... or weed."
Zendaya quickly responded on Instagram and Twitter, sharing the following message with her followers.
"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," she wrote. "... 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."
Soon enough, Mattel created a Zendaya Barbie doll, complete with the same dress she'd worn to the awards and the dreadlock hairstyle. Looking back on that moment, Zendaya told W Magazine that she was happy she stood up for herself
“That’s how change happens,” she said. “And it made me think, How could I always have a lasting impact on what people saw and associated with people of color?”
Speaking of change, Zendaya had a very specific vision in mind for her W photo shoot with her "Malcolm & Marie" co-star John David Washington. The inspiration for the shoot was a photo of blond socialite C.Z. Guest and the actor wanted to re-create the image with a modern Black couple as the focal point.
“The visuals matter. The way change happens is when people can see wealth and grandeur in a way that they are not used to seeing it,” she said.
As Zendaya and Washington posed on set at a palatial Beverly Hills house, the actor reflected on the moment and seemed pleased with how the shoot panned out.
“Two Black actors in this setting, seems like rewriting history in an elegant manner, like kind of an Old Hollywood that we wished existed in these photos. It’s almost like righting a wrong," she said.