When Kylie Jenner’s cornrows inspired this week’s conversation about cultural appropriation, several people invoked the name Bo Derek — the original white woman in cornrows — as reference, or maybe justification. (Most publicly, Laverne Cox, who discussed the “feud” on Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live.)
Since she ran down that beach, hair braided, in the 1979 movie 10, Bo Derek probably gets more credit for popularizing cornrows than anyone. A 1980 People article cited Derek as the catalyst for making cornrows a “cross-cultural craze” and a “beauty store bonanza.” As a result, the hairstyle’s origins in African-American culture have sometimes been overlooked — as in this Los Angeles Times debacle from earlier this year. So when New York caught up with the actress at the premiere of FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, we asked what she thought of the hairstyle, cultural appropriation, and whether she’d ever considered her role in it all.
Her answers were … minimal.
She remarked that, like Andy Cohen, she found the Jenner controversy “stupid,” and noted that race never came up around discussions of her 10 cornrows. “It’s a hairdo! That’s all it is,” she exclaimed.
When asked about the hairdo’s origins (in the same People piece a black woman named Ann Collins gets credit as 10’s official braider), Derek responded that she “knew where it came from, but that had nothing to do with doing it.”
Her final comment: “No, seriously, of all the important racial and cultural issues we have right now, people are going to focus on a hairstyle? No, no. I’ll save my efforts toward important racial and cultural issues.”