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Zendaya on Giuliana Rancic's Oscars Dreadlocks Comment: 'It Was a Learning Experience for Everyone'

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It’s been quite the year for Zendaya. She’s topped our Red Carpet Risk-Takers list, she designed her first-ever footwear line and now, she’s front and center on Complex‘s “Women of Next Year” issue, where she opens up about Giuliana Rancic’s comments surrounding the star’s dreadlocks at 2015 Oscars.

Zendaya December/January 2016 Complex magazine
Courtesy Complex

On an episode of Fashion Police following the Oscars red carpet, the TV host joked that Zendaya’s hair “must smell of patchouli oil or weed,” which prompted the actress to react with a eloquent message on Instagram.

“It was a learning experience for myself and for everyone who read it,” the 19-year-old told
Complex
. “A lot of people don’t realize that hair is a big thing for a lot of people, not just African-American women. It’s something to be aware of and to be cautious of.”

Zendaya added that Rancic’s “joke” surrounding her hair not only affected her but other women — no matter how they choose to wear their hair. “So it was something that I really felt like I should speak on. There were so many women, of all races, that came up to me and were like, ‘I really love what you said,’ or ‘I had my daughter read that.'”

Zendaya December/January 2016 Complex magazine
Courtesy Complex

But as Zendaya explains, one of the main reasons she decided to speak out against Rancic’s red carpet comments came from a personal, familial place.

“All my brothers and my dad at one point had dreadlocks,” she told the mag. “My little nieces have curly hair. And if they were to have someone say something demeaning about what they have and what they hold dear to them, then I would want them to at least have the pride within themselves to come up with a response that made sense and that they were proud of.”

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The starlet says it was important for her to set an example for future generations. “Honestly, I think about my little nieces and my little nephews first. Because one day they’re going to have Twitter and they’re going to have Instagram, and I’m going to be like, ‘This is how you handle it, kids.'”

With that kind of attitude, Zendaya exudes maturity and grace, which is why many young women look up to the star as a modern day role model. But the 19-year-old takes doesn’t take her newfound role too seriously.

“I think it’s a responsibility, but like Tupac Shakur, ‘I’m a real model.’ Which means: I’m not pretending to be something that I’m not, because like he said, people are going to be disappointed when they find out who you are, because it’s not going to be what you presented to the world,” she said. “So just keep it real. I’m a good kid and that’s all.”

For the full interview, pick up a copy of
Complex
magazine’s December/January 2016 issue, on newsstands now.

What do you think of Zendaya’s response to the dreadlock debacle? Do you think she handled it well? Share below!

–Sarah Kinonen