Giuliana Rancic is facing harsh criticism on social media after a comment many are calling racist. While covering Oscars fashion for the E! network, the co-host of Fashion Police made a comment about Disney star Zendaya Coleman’s dreadlocks, prompting a wave of backlash to fall upon her. Rancic issued an on-air apology to Coleman on Tuesday.
The questionable comment was made while Rancic was hosting an Academy Awards edition of the Fashion Police, which aired on Monday, for the E! network. When Coleman, 18, appeared on the red carpet clad in a Vivienne Westwood gown and with her hair styled in faux dreadlocks, Rancic told co-hosts Brad Goreski, Kathy Griffin and Kelly Osbourne, “I feel like she smells like patchouli oil…or maybe weed.”
Social media quickly latched onto Rancic’s comment, deeming it to be a racist remark against Coleman, whose father is African American. Coleman herself responded to what Rancic said on her own Instagram account, saying, “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.” The actress/signer explains that her decision to wear the faux dreadlocks on the red carpet was an attempt to show African Americans that their hair, which has been used historically to judge them as inferior, is “good enough.” She also said that dreadlocks to her are similar to the mane of a lion, and are synonymous with “strength and beauty.”
Rancic apologized via Twitter on Monday. Her tweet said that her comment about Coleman’s hair did not have anything to do with her race, but instead was a reference to the look as “bohemian chic.”
The ladies of the talk show The View also weighed in on the controversy. Co-host Rosie Perez disparaged Rancic’s apology as weak, saying “That’s doubling down on an insult,” pointing out that taken the way Rancic explains it, the comment would say that all those whose style is bohemian chic smoke marijuana and use patchouli oil. The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg, who has worn dreadlocks for decades, advised Rancic to contact Coleman directly in order to apologize, adding, “Be careful, cause you know a lot of people with dreads.”
Ava DuVernay, who directed the Oscar-nominated film Selma, and was referenced by Coleman in her response to Rancic as an African-American with dreadlocks, sprang to Coleman’s defense via Twitter. DuVernay tweeted, “You’re beautiful, Queen. We bless the ignorant and wish them well. Onward. xo.”
It seems as though Rancic’s opinion of Coleman’s fashion sense is not shared by fashion’s highest minds, specifically the editors of Vogue. Before Rancic’s comment was public, Vogue had already labeled Coleman as “lissome and lovely,” describing her appearance at the Oscars as “caus[ing] a stir” due to the “goddess gown, replete with flowing dreadlocks.”
Rancic made an on-air apology for her remark on Tuesday. Although she maintains that her intent was not to harm, she says that she has “learned it is not my intent that matters. It’s the result.” The host acknowledges that she offended many people, including Coleman, and says that she is “so, so sincerely sorry.” Rancic also remarks that the controversy has made her “more aware of cliches and stereotypes” and the damage that can be done by perpetuating them.