Singer Zendaya condemns racially charged comment about her hair

Zendaya arrives at the Oscars on Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Zendaya arrives at the Oscars on Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Zendaya, an 18-year-old rising star on the Disney Channel, has called out critics of the dreadlocks hairstyle she wore at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

E! network "Fashion Police" co-host Giuliana Rancic cracked jokes at the teen's expense while delivering critiques of red carpet fashion following the Oscars. Rancic quipped that Zendaya "smells like patchouli oil ... or weed."

The biracial star of Disney's "Shake It Up" and "K.C. Undercover" fought back on social media against the remark, which some have labeled racially insensitive. She said that commentators crossed the "fine line between what is funny and what is disrespectful."

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“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,” Zendaya tweeted on Monday. “My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough.” 

The singer also name-checked filmmaker Ava DuVernay, singer Ledesi, author Terry McMillan and several respected professors. What do they all "have in common?" Zendaya asked rhetorically. The answer: "Locs."

She closed her emotional statement by encouraging readers to listen to singer India Arie's anthem "I Am Not My Hair."

For her part, Rancic took to Twitter to clarify her comments from Sunday. She tweeted early Tuesday, “I was referring to a bohemian chic look. Had NOTHING to do with race and NEVER would!!!”

Still, her mocking of Zendaya has lit a firestorm, and the Disney performer's retort already has over 45,000 retweets and 51,000 likes.

Update: Giuliana Rancic delivered an on-air apology to the young star on Tuesday's episode of E! News, saying "I want to apologize for a comment I made on last night's 'Fashion Police' about Zendaya's hair," adding, "I didn't intend to hurt anybody, but I've learned it is not my intent that matters; it's the result."