Yara and Zendaya

Kathleen Posted by Kathleen at October 3, 2017 15:26:49 October 3, 2017 15:26:49

On November 10th, 2016, I wrote about Zendaya. I wrote that she gave me hope on a day the world was reeling from the election of a racist, bigoted shriveled up sweet potato masquerading as a human being. Zendaya is never afraid to use her voice and at 21 years old, that voice is stronger, clearer, more confident and rational than so many high-profile people twice her age.

Yesterday was a horrific day. Yesterday, I read Zendaya's Glamour profile written by Yara Shahidi and once again, Zendaya gave me hope on a sh-t day. It may seem silly considering how utterly appalling it is to just turn on the news or scroll through Twitter right now but two Gen Zers talking about their influence, their blackness, owning up to their light-skinned privilege and their love of Oprah and Beyonce was my light in the darkness. Reading a conversation between these two successful, self-aware, socially-conscious black girls gave me hope for the next generation on a day when dreaming about the future felt hopeless for so many.

The feature starts with a beautiful intro about Zendaya's career and versatility. Yara writes that Zendaya has fought for representation. She writes that it would be easy for two young black actresses around the same age to be in constant competition. Instead, they build each other up. Instead, they “dismantle that myth.” There have been many times this year that I read a sentence that seems so self-explanatory, logical and downright basic that I can’t believe we still have to say this sh-t in 2017. Most of the time, those sentences are about reproductive rights or gun control laws. This time, it’s about representation. 

Because, at the most basic level, we need to see a variety of characters whose likenesses reflect the society we live in.

How is this still a battle we’re fighting in 2017? An 18-year-old shouldn’t have to write that a 21-year-old is, “dedicated to showing young people that they are meant to be seen and counted. And that they are never, ever just one thing.” We should be there already. But we’re not. Here’s where the hope comes in. Zendaya and Yara Shahidi are using their influence to make sure we’re not still fighting these battles in 2057. Maybe it’s naïve to think that we won’t be but reading this conversation made me believe that if anyone can make a difference, it’s young black women with the determination to try.

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.
YARA: I know. It no longer feels like an option whether or not to be active. We can’t ignore what’s happening. It’s also forced us to segue into something a little more hopeful.

To Zendaya and Yara, activism no longer feels like an option. “It’s becoming more popular to be outspoken.” To me, when being opinionated, engaged and active is what the cool kids are doing, that’s progress.

This is what Zendaya posted on Instagram yesterday…

… and Yara’s message on Twitter.

It’s a small, simple sliver of hope in a steaming pile of garbage that my niece and nephews get to grow up with role models like these.

You can read their full conversation here.

Here is Zendaya at Good Morning America this morning. 


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