In an industry that loves to love itself, E!’s Fashion Police has become a hit thanks to its critical—and often brutally honest—look at fashion. From runways to red carpets, no one is safe from the cast’s sartorial commentary. In reality, however, it’s been quite tame since the loss of Joan Rivers. Until this weekend, when the show’s Oscars special took the dissecting and skewering of one star’s look a little too far.
Zendaya, the Disney actress and rising popstar, wore a champagne-colored silk gown from Vivienne Westwood with off the shoulder straps to her first ever Academy Awards. To complement the slinky gown, the actress and singer, who likes to wear wigs and often switches up her hairstyles, showed off a crown of thick dreadlocks. Vogue recently called the singer “one part Lisa Bonet, one part Venus de Milo, and all very grown up,” and many deemed the mature look a highlight of the night, while others called her a style star to watch (including us!). But Giuliana Rancic didn’t agree with the general consensus.
“I feel like she smells like patchouli oil… or maybe weed,” the host said on air about Zendaya’s hair.
Social media immediately erupted in reaction to Rancic’s comment, with many saying she was both ignorant and racist for thinking (and saying) what she did.
Zendaya’s often met with confusion about her changing looks, but the articulate young woman has always responded to the unenlightened with an educated comeback about why she chooses to wear wigs. Interestingly, no one questions when white women like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga change their locks with different wigs (which is almost every day), but it’s pointed out every time Zendaya makes a drastic change within a short period of time.
In response to Rancic, Zendaya posted an impassioned and lengthy soliloquy on Instagram. “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,” she wrote. “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 quickly apologized, but it was a half-hearted one at that.
Maybe Rancic shouldn’t have said anything at all (or at least consulted with a public relations expert before taking to Twitter to blast out a justification for her cluelessness). Making an excuse for not only hurting one person’s feelings, but many others in the process, doesn’t come off as a proper, let alone sincere, apology.
But saying sorry doesn’t seem to be enough for Kelly Osbourne, Rancic’s co-host on the show. After Fashion Police aired, she tweeted, “you guys do realize that @Zendaya is my friend right?” obviously upset by the situation. A few hours later, she continued to air her grievances:
Osbourne has been a staple on Fashion Police since the show’s inception and laughed (and sometimes cringed) when Joan Rivers went too far. But Rancic isn’t a comedian and her joke wasn’t done with tact. Instead, what was an attempt at making people laugh, not only angered and affronted plenty of people, it also jeopardized her job and friendship with Osbourne.