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'Hair Love' wins Oscar for best animated short film

In a seven-minute film, a father struggles to style his young daughter’s hair.
Image: Hair love
"Hair Love" is nominated for an Oscar in the best animated short film category.Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

"Hair Love," a story about a black father who struggles and eventually succeeds in styling his young daughter's hair, won the Academy Award for best animated short film on Sunday.

The story, which once existed only in the form of a dream and a Kickstarter campaign, is also the basis of a best-selling children's book.

Matthew Cherry, the former NFL player who wrote and directed "Hair Love," predicted that he would be nominated for an Oscar in a 2012 tweet that resurfaced Sunday.

“I wanted to give kids a character that normalizes and celebrates black hair,” Cherry told NBC News. “Black fathers get a bad rap in mainstream media, so I also wanted to show them as present and caring, versus the deadbeat dad stereotype that is often ascribed to them in film.”

In “Hair Love,” the love Stephen shares for his daughter, Zuri, is evident in that he doesn’t give up, even though styling women’s hair is out of his comfort zone.

“I’m a mother of two black teen boys and I worry about how they’re seen and how stereotyped they are,” Karen Toliver, producer of the film, said. “There’s not a lot of movies that reflect black families in a positive light, so that’s initially why I was attracted to ‘Hair Love.’”

Black hair has often been policed, which is why Gabrielle Union, the other producer of “Hair Love,” invited DeAndre Arnold to the Oscars ceremony on Sunday. Arnold is a high school senior who was suspended and told he wouldn’t be able to walk at his own graduation ceremony unless he cut his dreadlocks.

"It means the world to us to have him here with us," Cherry said on the red carpet before the Oscars. "We wanted people to see how good of a kid he is, but also there’s no reason people should be policing our hair."

Cherry advocates for the federal passing of the Creating a Respectful Workplace for Natural Hair Act, or CROWN Act, which updates the state's anti-discrimination law so that the term "race" includes "traits historically associated with race." California became the first state to pass the act in July, with New York following suit later that month.