Alumnus Matthew Cherry Discusses ‘Hair Love’ Short Film, Book Award Nominations, UA Impact

With two award nominations for “Hair Love”, Matthew Cherry tells how being a Zip impacted his career and the inspiration for his book and short film.


(Image via Sony Pictures Animation)

“Hair Love” follows the story of an African-American father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.

By Megan Parker, Editor-in-Chief

When he learned his seven-minute short film “Hair Love” was one of the five nominees for the Best Animated Short Film Academy Award, UA alumnus Matthew A. Cherry (2000-03) was filled with joy.

“We actually took a video of it,” Cherry said. “Everybody came over to the house and it was really cool also because Issa Rae, who voices the mom in our short film, she announced the category.”

But “Hair Love” isn’t just an
animated short film: it is also a children’s book that has been nominated in the Outstanding Literary Work in the Children’s category of the 51st NAACP Image Awards.

Sony Pictures Animation

Both the ‘Hair Love’ book, illustrated by Vashiti Harrison, and short film tell the story of the relationship between an African-American father, his daughter and learning to do her hair for the first time.

According to Cherry’s
website, the ‘Hair Love’ short film first appeared in theaters on Aug. 14, 2019 before Angry Birds 2, while the book hit store shelves earlier that year on May 14.

One of the main things that inspired Cherry and his team to make the short film was a lack of representation for the relationship between African-American fathers and daughters in mainstream animated media.

“The thing that really inspired us to make ‘Hair Love’ was just really wanting to represent fathers and daughters,” Cherry said.

For those interested in watching the 92
nd Academy Awards, the ceremony will be televised live on ABC on Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. Then, the NAACP Image Awards will be televised live on BET on Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.

How The University of Akron Impacted Cherry’s Career

“I’m really proud to be a Zip. And I think now’s a great time to take advantage at The University of Akron to take that next step in life to where you want to be,” Cherry said. “I couldn’t think of a better place.”

Prior to the two award nominations, Cherry studied radio and television broadcast, as well as media production at The University of Akron. Additionally, Cherry was a part of WZIP, the number one college radio station in the country.

Outside of the classroom, Cherry played on the Zips Football team as a wide receiver and still holds two punt return records at UA, according to a
UA press release.

“Akron U is amazing,” Cherry said. “It was just a really great experience because it was so close to Cleveland too. I was able to intern at a couple of radio stations up there.”

Cherry is one of two alumni from The University of Akron to be nominated for a NAACP Image Award.

Alumna Yvette Nicole Brown, class of ‘94, was nominated for the Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Television) award for her film “Always a Bridesmaid.”

(Image via Matthew Cherry)
Matthew Cherry and Yvette Nicole Brown pose for a photograph during the Nominees Luncheon on Feb. 1, 2020.

When asked about being nominated for an NAACP Image Award with Brown, Cherry said it is an amazing thing because it shows how people who come from UA can do great things after graduation.

“Sometimes all you have to do is see people that look like you, that went to the same school as you doing really well and it can help motivate and inspire you to do great as well,” Cherry said.

For students trying to make a name for themselves in media and entertainment, Cherry believes being consistent and working hard now is the best way to reach goals and prepare for a career.

“Take advantage of your freedom when you’re young because the older you get, the more responsibilities you have,” Cherry said. “Remember why it is you wanted to start in this particular business and stay humble.”