Two of the most prominent women that have a profound influence on #younghollywood today are Yara Shahidi and Zendaya. Both young women are known for their supreme talent, amazing sense of fashion style, activism, and beyond.
Recently, in a piece written for the November 2017 issue of Glamour Magazine, Shahidi becomes a journalist-for-the-day and sits down with Zendaya in order to get her take on “Blackness, Beyonce, Telling Disney ‘NoYara’ and more. Check out an except from the interview below. To read the interview in its entirety, click here.
YARA: Let’s take it all the way back. How did you end up moving to Los Angeles from Oakland as a middle-schooler to act?
ZENDAYA: I was basically like, “I want to do this,” and my dad quit his job as a teacher to make it happen. My mom stayed in Oakland because she had two jobs: teaching, and working at the California Shakespeare Theater at night. Those two jobs paid for all of our car trips back and forth for the year I was auditioning. Luckily I had parents who were like, “You know what? We believe in you.” I got my first job on the Disney Channel when I was 13, and it was just me and my dad in an apartment in downtown L.A. It was very difficult because I was dealing with all the pivotal girl moments. I remember getting my period and him not knowing what to do. It was a weird transitional phase.
YARA: I feel like everybody in our industry goes through that moment of transition. When Black-ish started, I tried to do the first season while going to high school full-time.
ZENDAYA: So difficult.
YARA: Yeah, but my mom got her master’s in education. I think coming from a background in which education is so valued provided me with a sense of grounding. In this industry there are always opportunities for someone to say that education is peripheral. There have been times when a lawyer has said, “All that’s required is that you’re provided with four walls and a human.” And it was like, “Wait, but I actually want to excel in school.”
ZENDAYA: See, that’s always the thing. I remember some kids I knew would cheat their way through an online school program. They’d just look up the answers and type them in. That’s insane to me. It’s funny that you talk about lawyers, because my mom had to write letters to Disney lawyers to say, “Listen, my daughter needs this teacher,” because I’d finally found someone who would work with me when I had press tours. In the car. On the plane. On the train. In the hotel room. She’d be like, “Are you tired? I don’t care.” I remember doing Dancing With the Stars and literally falling asleep reading a book. I’d never been so tired in my life—there’s no off time. But she stuck with me and made sure I got what I needed.
YARA: You mentioned how your mama had to move between two jobs to help you achieve your dreams. What does this powered-by-women issue [produced by female contributors] mean to you?
ZENDAYA: What I’ve learned most from my mom is selflessness. She taught in underprivileged communities for 20 years, and she worked her ass off to get her students to have experiences like outdoor science camp. There are students who will tell you, “Without Ms. Stoermer, I don’t know where I’d be.”
YARA: Our generation has a lot going on right now: from North Korea to Charlottesville—
ZENDAYA: It’s insane.
YARA: It’s slightly insane.
ZENDAYA: Here’s the thing—I can genuinely say that I’m not the same person I was a year ago. As my social platforms grew, I realized that my voice was so much more important than I had originally thought. I think if every young person understood the power of their voice, things would be a lot different. And it’s becoming more popular to be outspoken.