Yara Shahidi is an actress with on a mission. The 18-year-old Harvard freshman has conquered Hollywood in more ways than one. The talented teen has become the voice of a generation. She has addressed everything from racial injustice to civic engagement with the spirit and soul of a woman ten times her age. To celebrate her birthday, Shahidi hosted a voter-registration party, making sure that Generation Z is poised and ready to go for November 6 and beyond.
Elle.com caught up with this talented young lady to talk about everything from Hollywood to Harvard. Check out a snippet of Shahidi’s interview below.
For you, what does it mean to be a woman in Hollywood in 2018?
We’re holding people accountable for their actions. There’s an intentional knowledge disparity in any industry, which is tied to the maintaining of power. I love the fact that this community of women is disintegrating that. I’ve been able to reap the benefits of it, and I’m also fortunate to have my parents with me, guiding me. This is a hobby, so I haven’t had to do this as something that my family and I depend on, which has helped alleviate pressures that many actors feel.
Have you seen a tangible change in the last year?
I do see a tangible change, or at least, I feel we’re on the precipice of one. There’s a correlation between [these] movements and the fact that there are more women behind the camera, in production, creating film.
Can you talk about a time you advocated for yourself?
I always had exams and school, which [required] major conversations, making sure that my academic needs were met.
You started Black-ish at 14. Do people treat you differently now?
I have more input in the day-to-day stories. Kenya [Barris, creator of Black-ish] is somebody I can call with concerns, questions, and ideas.
Whose careers do you admire?
Angela Bassett. She’s extremely academic and just an amazing human. Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Paper Boi in Atlanta. And Pharrell—he’s the all-around creative, in terms of his work as a producer, writer, content creator, and clothing designer.
Is mentorship important?
Sharing information opens doors. We don’t know what we don’t know. [Laughs] When people share their experiences, it makes us feel like we’re all going a little less insane.
Have you ever experienced sexism or ageism?
On a macro scale, we forget our ability to negotiate [salaries]. And in terms of ageism, people will normalize undervaluing you, but in a way that’s so nonsensical.
Who’s helped guide your political activism?
Podcasts! Like Code Switch, Still Processing, and DeRay Mckesson’s [Pod Save the People]; people like Patrisse Cullors and Shaun King. So many of my peers are doing amazing work. Because we’re fighting for the greater good, people are more willing to share their information and resources.
Which issues are currently the most important to you?
All of them! Immigration, gun control. There’s been a lack of humanity, especially in the policies of these past two years, policies that alienate minorities, whether it be a person of color, an immigrant, or someone differently abled. The list goes on and on. Going into the midterms, it’s important to keep in mind that as much as you’re voting for yourself, you’re also voting for your community.
Did you vote in the primaries?
Yes! That was really exciting. But it made me realize how confusing this process is, and I consider myself fairly well informed.
To read the remainder of Shahidi’s interview click here. We would not be surprised to see this phenomenal young woman through her hat into the political ring sometime in the future. She definitely has our vote!