CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago writer and director is now an Oscar winner, taking home the award for Best Animated Short Film.

The film has been viewed more than 16 million times on YouTube.

Former NFL player Matthew A. Cherry won for “Hair Love” — a film about an African-American dad combing his daughter’s hair.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports “Hair Love” is six minutes of entertainment with an important message.

At Hair Experts in Bronzeville, the Oscar winner plays on the salon’s television – and it’s striking a cord.

“Yeah, I loved it,” said salon client Khayla Alkhalidi.

“Hair Love” is the animated story of an African American father struggling to style his daughter’s hair in all of its natural glory.

It’s a comical but poignant plea to see black hair as beautiful, without chemicals or the straightening iron.

“To think positive about themselves. To go ahead and work with what you have,” said salon client Patricia Johnson Walker.

“Hair Love” was co-written and directed by Chicago’s own Matthew A. Cherry. He’s a Loyola Academy graduate and former pro football player.

 

“I hope we are able to just normalize about our hair,” Cherry said. “It shouldn’t be a conversation. We should be able to wear it how it grows out of our head just like anybody else.”

It is a standard beauty often not seen in popular culture.

“A lot of times, they were looking at women who are Caucasian, and some of us wanted our hair to be like that,” said Johnson Walker.

Khayla Alkhalidi admitted she was once rough on her hair.

“I was just constantly straightening my hair, cutting my hair, breaking my hair off,” Alkhalidi said.

She applauds the impact a film like “Hair Love” could have on young black girls.

“It took me until my 20s to love my natural hair,” Alkhalidi said. “So, for something to be like around for girls now, that wasn’t there for me to see at that age, is super important.”

Another significant thread runs through the film: A young, loving father caring for his daughter. A black father.

Cherry was inspired by many videos of real black men combing their daughters’ hair.

“And it felt like a really good opportunity to showcase a black family in animation which is so rarely been done,” Cherry said.

Showcasing men like the salon’s owner Vernon Spells.

“It was very refreshing, being I have a four-year-old daughter and have to wake with those hair issues every morning,” Spells said.

“Hair Love” in real life — and an Oscar winner.

Matthew Cherry returns home to Chicago to screen “Hair Love” at the State Street Macy’s store on February 20.

It’ll be followed by a discussion.