It was a tribute to Eritrea that left social media abuzz with delight and joy.
At the 90th Academy Awards ceremony, actress Tiffany Haddish graced the red carpet wearing a traditional Eritrean dress known as zuria. The creamy gown had black and gold embroidery along with a matching black cape.
Haddish was born in California to an African American mother and an Eritrean father. She said she wore the dress to honor his roots. In response to the question “What are you wearing?” on the red carpet, the actress said: “My father is from Eritrea. He passed away last year. He said one day I will end up here. And if I ever end up at the Oscars to honor my people. So I am honoring my fellow Eritreans.” After her answer, she also did the traditional ululation and broke into the eskista dance.
The choice of dress comes days after Haddish told Entertainment Tonight that she wanted Oprah’s advice (minute 0:51) if she should wear the traditional dress to the Oscars. “Because my daddy from Eritrea and he passed away, and I want to pay respect. I want to show the world,” she said.
Last year, the 38-year-old actress became the first black female stand-up comedian to host Saturday Night Live in its 43 seasons. Haddish also got her big break last year after starring in the raucous sisterhood comedy Girls Trip. And despite not receiving a nomination for that role, she announced the Oscar nominations alongside English actor Andy Serkis, a moment that endeared her to so many fans. And along with actress Maya Rudolph last night, she presented the award for best animated and live action short film—wearing the same white sheath dress she wore to SNL.
Haddish’s dress set off Eritrea pride on social media.
Haddish’s father Tsihaye was an Eritrean refugee who left the family when she was three years old. After being estranged for years, she reconnected with him in Philadelphia, and he walked her down the aisle on her wedding day, a day she described as “one of the happiest days of my life.” Earlier this year, the actress traveled to Eritrea to meet her relatives and to bury her father’s remains. In an interview on Eritrean television, she described the experience as “amazing” and talked about eating the injera flatbread and touring historic sites and cities including the Red Sea port city of Massawa.
“I am finally home. I am finally where I was supposed to be a long time ago,” she said at the time. “I felt like my heart was being healed. I have been through a lot of things.”
This was one of the Happiest Days of my life. Because that was the day I learned that dreams do come true. I didn't know my father growing up, and I used to work Bat mitzvahs and weddings and whenever the father and daughter dance happen I would get so jealous because I thought that would never happen for me. Then I met a man that said he would make my Dream come true of my father walking down the aisle and Dancing with my Daddy. My X husband did just that. Even though my Dad didn't want me to get married he stood right by my side. I cried so hard when we danced because there I was in my Daddy's arms. He said something to me I dreamed of him saying to me all of my life. He said " Tiffany you are the most beautiful woman in the world and I am so proud of you. Even when you wrong you are right in my eyes. I am here for you." That was it I started to ugly cry. Now my Daddy is in the Hospital with Heart failure and pneumonia. I am praying he lives so he can see me win awards, walk me down the aisle again, meet his Grandchildren I have yet to give him and share the success I have yet to gain. Daddy I Love you! God Please don't let my Daddy Die.
Sign up for the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief — the most important and interesting news from across the continent, in your inbox.