E!’s acerbic fashion review show “Fashion Police” may have finally crossed a red line.
Host Giuliana Rancic employed not one but two racially tinged stereotypes to criticize Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman’s red carpet look: a sleek Vivienne Westwood gown and dreadlocks.
“I feel that she smells like patchouli oil . . . or weed,” Rancic said during Monday night’s show. “Yeah, maybe weed.”
Chuckles all around.
Zendaya, whose father is black, immediately zeroed in the not-so-subtle racial subtext of Rancic’s comments.
In response, the 18-year-old singer and Disney actress (“Shake It Up,” “K.C. Undercover”) issued a rather lengthy takedown of Rancic’s comments — noting that despite the stereotype of dreadlocks being associated with weed smokers and Rastafarians, they are a symbol of “strength and beauty.”
“There’s a fine line between funny and disrespectful,” she wrote in the missive on Twitter.
Zendaya noted that Ava DuVernay, who directed the Oscar-nominated film “Selma,” Harvard professor Vincent Brown, author Terry McMillan and Grammy-nominated soul singer Ledisi all have dreadlocks.
“There is already a 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,” she added. “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.”
Rancic later apologized, saying that her comments were referring to her “bohemian chic” look and had nothing to do with race.
On “The View,” Rosie Perez said Rancic’s apology was weak. “That’s doubling down on an insult,” Perez said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “Everyone who’s bohemian chic looks like they smoke weed and smells like patchouli?”
Her co-host, Whoopi Goldberg, addressed Rancic directly.
“You know what I’m thinking right now, right?” Goldberg said. “You need to call Zendaya, Giuliana, and apologize.”
Flipping her own dreadlocks, Goldberg added: “Be careful, cause you know a lot of people with dreads.”
On Twitter, there was no shortage of people coming to Zendaya’s defense.
Even before Rancic’s comments, Vogue labeled Zendaya the “Breakout Star” of the Academy Awards:
Oh, what a difference a serious red-carpet moment can make! If you didn’t know who Zendaya was before tuning in to the 87th Annual Academy Awards tonight, well, you will now: The lissome and lovely Disney actress and pop singer caused a stir on the red carpet in a figure-hugging ivory-toned Vivienne Westwood slip of a goddess gown, replete with flowing dreadlocks: one part Lisa Bonet, one part Venus de Milo, and all very grown up (which is to say, all very un-Disney). We’ll be keeping our eye on you, Zendaya.
CORRECTION: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Giuliana Rancic’s first name.