The 92nd Annual Academy Awards honored Hair Love with the 2020 Oscar for Animated Short Film. The tribute to black hair was written and co-directed by Matthew A. Cherry and produced by Karen Rupert Toliver, who both took the stage to accept the award.
The pair spoke to the importance of representation. “Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation. We wanted to normalize black hair,” Cherry said.
Gabrielle Union, who is a producer of the short film, took to Twitter with her excitement. "#HairLove shaking crying grateful. Representation realllly matters!!!!!" she wrote.
Hair Love notably publicly began its journey as a Kickstarter campaign. The inspirational short follows an African-American father’s first attempt to do his daughter’s hair. The idea for the project came from Cherry’s desire to promote hair love among young people of color, and to push back against the absent black father stereotype and the lack of black representation in mainstream animated films.
Earlier in the night, Cherry highlighted the importance of their speech by bringing Texan high school student, DeAndre Arnold, and his mother as his guests. Arnold was banned from his prom and graduation because of his dreadlocks, which the school demanded he cut. The news quickly went viral as celebrities and activities came to Arnold’s defense over what was considered blatant natural hair discrimination.
"I'm so grateful. I never expected any of this," Arnold told Refinery29. "The message of that movie and my message go together so well. I think it's really amazing how they reached out to me and we can fight this together."
The win for Hair Love comes two years after Kobe Bryant won the same category for Dear Basketball. Several times throughout the night, attendees and winners paid tribute to the late athlete, who died tragically in a helicopter crash last month.
“This award is dedicated to Kobe Bryant. May we all have a second act as great as his was,” Cherry said as he finished up his speech.
Toliver is also the first African-American woman to be nominated in the category, while Cherry is the second African-American man and winner behind Bryant.