Former NFL player Matthew A. Cherry’s film-turned-picture book, Hair Love, has received an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. Cherry and co-producer Karen Rupert Toliver accepted the accolade at the 92nd Academy Awards on February 9 at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Calif.
In 2017, Cherry launched a Kickstarter to raise money for the project, exceeding the initial goal of $75,000 to raise more than $300,000—a funding record for short films on Kickstarter. Co-directed by Cherry, Everett Downing, and Bruce W. Smith, the film was released by Sony Pictures Animation in August 2019. Hair Love was also adapted as a picture book last May by Dial Books, with text by Cherry and illustrations by Vashti Harrison.
The story is about a black girl named Zuri and her father, who work together to style Zuri’s hair. Cherry said in his speech, “Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation; we wanted to normalize black hair.” Cherry also mentioned the importance of the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), a California law which prohibits discrimination based on hair style and texture.