E! correspondent and Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic issued an on-air apology for a comment she made about the faux locs that 18-year-old actress Zendaya wore to the Oscars.
During the Fashion Police episode in which the hosts — the other ones are Kathy Griffin, Kelly Osbourne and Brad Goreski — reviewed this year’s Oscar fashions, Rancic commented that it looked like Zendaya smelled like “patchouli oil” and “weed.” Here’s a clip of the comment.
The response from the audience was swift, prompting, first, a Twitter apology from Rancic.
Dear @Zendaya, I’m sorry I offended you and others. I was referring to a bohemian chic look. Had NOTHING to do with race and NEVER would!!!
— Giuliana Rancic (@GiulianaRancic) February 24, 2015
Personally, I believe her entirely. I don’t think the comments were rooted in anything racist. (Though I question her comment about the reference to anything “chic.” She clearly didn’t think there was anything boho chic about it.) But, she went even further with what sounds like a sincere and effective apology.
The point that she makes here about stereotypes and our personal responsibility to buck them is probably the best part of this statement. It speaks to the fact that, with her comment, she did indeed cross the line with Black women, who have been on the receiving end of many nasty and discriminatory comments because of how they wear their hair. Anything that strikes the same tone is offensive.
Zendaya posted a response that got to the heart of the matter in a touching and powerful Instagram post. It also prompted support from a number of other women, including Kerry Washington and Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay.
(She also wrote a post-apology statement today in which she defended Rancic from those who “body shamed” her in response.)
Ultimately, this is a topic that should be approached with respect and cultural sensitivity. Part of living in a diverse world — and part of not being a jerk — is understanding the deep impressions that your words make; how hurtful or ugly they can truly be.
Diversity comes up often in PR — the need for it, the desire to have it, the effort to reach diversity goals. The first step is listening and learning about other groups.
From a publicity standpoint, Rancic gets points for an apology that shows she takes responsibility for her words and the damage they did. (Her colleague Kelly Osbourne was very angry that she was accused of contributing to these comments and said she was questioning her continued participation in the program as well.)
Let’s hope that everyone has learned a thing or three from this incident. Fun fashion commentary = OK. Harsh, ignorant jabs = no.