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De’Andre Arnold on First Red Carpet: the ‘Kid With Dreads Is at the Oscars’


De’Andre Arnold, the Texas high school student who in December was suspended for wearing dreadlocks, is excited to show viewers of the Academy Awards telecast the hairstyle he has been wearing since seventh grade.

In a phone interview shortly before his flight to Los Angeles, De’Andre, an 18-year-old high school senior, said that he was feeling “pride, and validation too,” for the opportunity he has Sunday.

“It’s like, look at me,” he said. “The little kid with dreads is at the Oscars. While all the people at home are mad? I’m at the Oscars.”

He was invited to the Academy Awards by the former N.B.A. player Dwyane Wade and his wife, the actress Gabrielle Union, who were producers of the animated short film “Hair Love,” which is taking home an Oscar tonight. The short was directed by Matthew A. Cherry and features the voice of Issa Rae.

De’Andre said that dreadlocks were a family tradition.

“When I was around my dad’s side of the family when I was younger, I would see them everywhere,” he said of the hairstyle. “On aunties and cousins. I really just took to it. I was just like, I want to do that, too. From there, I just joined in on the fun.”

Though he has worn his dreadlocks all through high school in Mont Belvieu, Texas, he was suspended only in December. He was told he could not walk at graduation if he did not change his hair. He has no plans to do so.

Officials at the Barbers Hill Independent School District, where he is a student and which is majority-white, have said they were hewing to regulations on students’ appearances. Still, the decision to suspend De’Andre has drawn criticism from many who say the policies are racist and sexist.

De’Andre’s mother will be with him, and Dove has paid for their hair, makeup, wardrobe and tickets. Mr. Wade and Ms. Union paid for their travel and accommodations.

Asked what most excited him about going to the Oscars, he said, “I’m really excited to see all the celebrities, just being close to them you know. Just breathe the same air as them, I guess.”

Asked whom he was excited to see, aside from Mr. Wade and Ms. Union, De’Andre hesitated before landing on Will Smith.

When it was suggested that he may have the opportunity to meet Mr. Smith, he said, “That’d be cool. That’d be really cool.”

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