Giuliana Rancic

I was about 16 when I decided that I was going to loc my hair up.

To that point, I’d had every hair style that one could have as a little black girl growing up in the 90s.  My hair had been permed.  My mother hand straightened my hair with the hot comb (the one that you would stick on the burner and run through your hair).  I’d rocked box braids.  And finally, when I was old enough to realize that I didn’t want anyone touching my hair or pulling it anymore, I decided that I was going to loc it up.  I don’t think my mom took me seriously at first.  Up to this point I’d been an imaginative teen, and had dreamt of being a singer, practiced my autograph over and over, changed my handwriting, tried to be a lefty, and expressed my dreams of becoming a Rockette, so she may have thought it was just one of my Cheri-isms, and she bought me a few books on it from the library, not thinking it would lead anywhere.

But I was relentless.

I loc’ed it up myself, and my parents were so horrified by the results (rightfully so), that they took me to a place to get a consultation, and then finally, to get my locs started.  They were short, little baby locs, and my mother was horrified.  She begged me to let her cut them off.  She begged me to try a wig, and then a weave.  And when it became clear that I was serious, she left it alone, and most likely resigned herself that I was just going to with short hair forever.  [Side note:  mom has since come around, and admitted that she didn’t understand what they were going to look like.  She loves it, and has since started to wear her hair natural as well.]

Since then I got into a prestigious private college, graduated college, attended graduate school, met my husband, got married, bought a house, and made a life as one of the director team at a non-profit.

All this to say that though I chose to transition my hair back to its natural form 10ish years ago, I am a productive member of society.  But wearing my hair this way made me afraid that white people would look at me and make assumptions about who I was, my education, or my capabilities as an employee.  Fears that came to light when Giuliana Rancic, a correspondent at E!, made the following comments when sizing up Zendaya’s red-carpet look from Oscar Weekend.

“I feel like she smells like patchouli oil… or maybe weed.”

She opened her hands and laughed it off.  My cheeks immediately got hot.

I was taken back to the millions of times people have asked me if I wash my hair.

I was taken back to the time I was in an interview (an interview, people), and one of the gentlemen in the interview asked me what I do with my hair when I’m running.

I was taken back to a 2007 Glamour controversy where an editor stated that natural hairstyles were a big “no-no” for the office.

Giuliana Rancic, your comments were not cool whatsoever.  People with natural hair don’t smell of illegal drugs or douse themselves in patchouli to cover up body odor.  The vast, vast majority of us lead productive lives, and it doesn’t take a classically European hairstyle to achieve any of these.  On the flip side, there are plenty of people with straight silky locks who may smell of patchouli and weed.  I know this because I worked at Whole Foods for a few months while jobs searching after school.  It depends on the individual. 

Now, do I feel like Giulina is an horrible racist?  No, probably not.  But she made an insensitive, stupid, and ignorant comment that peels away that outside layer and reveals what she truly thinks when she sees chicks like me walking down the hall with a huge mane of natural, well-maintained hair.  And that has to change.



15 thoughts on “Giuliana Rancic

  1. I agree with you, entirely! I love natural hair on black women. I love clean hair on anyone, no matter what the race or sex of the person. None of us love what nature gifted us and we all struggle to curl, straighten, loc, dye or shave it into our own idea of what looks best. Hair is a pain, yet it’s the one thing we can change with little difficulty to reflect our lifestyles, that isn’t permanent. Personally, I’ve seen only a few cases of dirty locs, and they both happened to be men. One was white and one was black.

    Do I think Guiliana is a racist? It’s hard to say, but no matter what her true feelings are on the subject, it’s very clear that she doesn’t lead a diversified life. To make an insensitive statement about someone based on an illogical stereotype reeks of ignorance and pomposity.

    1. I so appreciate your well-thought-out comment. I don’t think she’s a racist, but her flip comment revealed that there is clearly something lacking there. She seemed so genuinely sorry about her comment, and seemed to lack insight about what made it so offensive. I’m going to guess she doesn’t know any actual black people.

  2. Thank you for this post. One of my daughter’s best friends is a beautiful young woman of color. (The girls are both 14) Her friend was adopted as an infant by a white woman who also happens to be a hair dresser. So, as you might imagine, this girl is constantly trying out new, fun hairstyles. Recently they were chatting about hair & I heard my daughter tell her friend that she couldn’t wait until she got her ‘locs back because they look particularly great on her.

    As far as Guiliana’s opinion goes, she makes a living criticizing other people on TV. Very sad when that’s your talent, don’t you think?

    1. Gosh, I so appreciate this comment, and kudos to you for exposing your daughter to all sorts of folks.

      I never will understand what our cultural fascination is with tearing people down, but I cannot imagine that being my job. I work for a non-profit, and ALL I want to to is lift people up!

  3. Way to go – I love that you a)changed your hair to a style you like and b)are standing up against comments that are negative. Frankly – I enjoy working with and hanging around people from different cultures. It helps me see the world differently and gives me ideas for making my life/approach to the world more diverse. Keep it up, Cheri!

  4. I’m not sure how I just stumbled upon your blog, but I’m glad I did. I love this post -and I’ll add that I think your response is much more civil than mine was. Here’s my thoughts: Guilliana Rancic’s comments were inappropriate and unprofessional at best -and racist at worst. She is a PAID professional and, as a job qualification, should know better. Personally I’m tired of paid “journalists” making mistakes such as this and then saying they didn’t really mean it and really aren’t racists and just “didn’t understand”. They are PAID to understand. If I made a mistake as serious as this one I would be fired. I’m glad she apologized, but sometimes an apology just isn’t enough. What would have been enough is if she didn’t make the comment in the first place. If she really is ignorant enough to not have known that her comments crossed the line, then she is too ignorant to have the job in the first place.

    1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE what you had to say about that – you are correct. As a journalist, you’re supposed to know things. You’re supposed to know words mean things, and feigning ignorance is NO excuse. Love what you have to say about this!

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