A high school student who was told he couldn’t attend his graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks has been invited to the Oscars in a touching gesture by filmmakers.
The invitation to the prestigious awards ceremony was extended to 18-year-old DeAndre Arnold by creators of the Oscar-nominated short film Hair Love.
Film director Matthew A.Cherry, alongside producers Dwyane Wade - a former NBA player - and the actress Gabrielle Union, want to highlight Arnold’s story and his discriminatory treatment.
Arnold was told he wouldn’t be able to walk at his graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks.
He described being invited to the Oscars, which take place on Sunday, February 9, as a surreal moment.
Wade told Arnold: "We love the way that you carry yourself and we wanted to do something special for you.”
"You and your mother Sandy are the official guests of the Oscar-nominated team behind 'Hair Love' at the 2020 Academy Awards."
Cherry revealed the teenager and his mum will also receive “full wardrobe and glam for the big night” from Dove.
He added: "We've all been so inspired by your story and this is the very least we can do to thank you for standing up for yourself and for your right to wear your natural hair at school.”
Speaking on CBS This Morning, film creator Cherry said: "Just hearing his story, it really just represented everything we were trying to do with the short film, 'Hair Love.' We really wanted to just normalize black hair, normalize us.”
On December 21 2019, the CROWN Act was enshrined in law in New Jersey, making it illegal to discriminate against someone for their natural hair or how they wear it.
The state is now the third to outlaw discrimination based on "traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles," such as braids, locks and twists.
Cherry believes the CROWN Act, which has currently only been passed in California, New York and New Jersey, should be implemented nationwide.
He said: "If this law was in Texas, this situation with Deandre wouldn't happen.”
For DeAndre Arnold, the news was hard to process.
He said: "I've got excitement and then it's just like, 'Is this really happening? Am I in a dream?' ... it blows my mind that people that have so much voice, they're on my side and they're with me. I love that. I appreciate that. I really do."
The teenager also commended his mother, Sandy.
"My mom deserves any special treatment she gets. She deserves this. She's been working so hard, on the computer day and night, just to try and help me get my word out," he said.
Finally, he added: "When you have people like this in your corner, there's no way you can lose. No way."