In 2020, Zendaya won the Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy for her performance in season one of Euphoria. She’s now two for two as she won again in the same category last night, making history in the process as the first Black woman to win in that category twice and the youngest two-time Emmy winner among all categories. The first time she was nominated you could say she was an underdog in that category alongside Olivia Colman, Jodie Comer, Laura Linney, Sandra Oh, and Jennifer Aniston. But the minute Euphoria S2’s fifth episode aired in February, people were already predicting she’d take it this time and they were right. If you’ve seen the episode, you would understand. It’s a full hour of raw and relentless talent.
And here’s what I was thinking when she was giving her acceptance speech – how is Zendaya so good at being a celebrity?! She is SO famous, like on multiple levels. She’s obviously been embraced by the industry, by the insiders, and this Emmy win proves it. One win can be called a fluke. Two wins is definitely not a fluke. She’s going back and forth between movies and television, from blockbusters like Spider-Man to producing her own independent films like Malcolm & Marie to working with prestige directors like Denis Villeneuve (Dune). And, of course, beyond business, she’s an icon of her generation, super popular on social media, a Twitter favourite on her own and one half of the internet’s favourite celebrity couple.
My point is… Zendaya is a Very Big Deal. And has been for a while. But nobody is sick of her. Anyone else by now and the culture would be like – go away. And still we all want more Zendaya. Because she’s good at this. She never gives us too much. She should be overexposed but somehow she’s not. And as Duana perfectly articulated last night, she’s also gifted as a diplomat.
Euphoria is a controversial show. There has been a lot of mess behind the scenes and showrunner Sam Levinson is allegedly to blame for much of it. In her acceptance speech, Zendaya acknowledged the work of the “incredible cast and crew of Euphoria …for making such a safe space to make this very difficult show”. That’s a delicate line she manages to walk there. Because there are people who are accusing Sam of not making it a safe space, and she doesn’t include him there – she is thanking “cast and crew” for trying their best and describing the show as “very difficult” also means she’s not minimising people’s concerns but also not adding more drama and intrigue to an already challenging situation.
When she does mention Sam (because she kind of has to, he’s the showrunner), it’s specific, narrow in scope. She thanks him for sharing the character with her (he created the show and Rue, after all) and for believing in her that she could bring Rue to life with empathy and kindness. But these are not statements that speak to his leadership; she’s not defending his failings as a leader, she does not negate the experience of those who have called out his sh-tty leadership. All she’s saying here is that she is grateful that he wrote this character and gave her the opportunity to play her – which you can’t really fault her for. Zendaya managed to navigate a tricky situation without stepping in it. This too is a talent. And it’s not contrived either; these moments feel real and thoughtful and instinctive.
And her good instincts kicked in off-stage too when Kenan Thompson made that Leonardo DiCaprio joke, LOLOLOLOL:
â€œZendaya just turned 26, happy birthday. 26 is a weird age in Hollywood. Young enough to play a high school student, but too old to date Leonardo DiCaprio.â€ - Kenan Thompson at the #Emmys pic.twitter.com/tnbJ3XtZ1m— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) September 13, 2022
We’ll talk more about Leo later because we’re focusing on Zendaya now and turning her face away and keeping it covered was exactly the right move. She immediately removed any opportunity for her face to go viral with that joke. I mean hiding her face will probably get memed in one way or another related to other online moments later on but in this moment she gave up nothing, nothing to analyse, nothing to interpret. A quick and smart reflex – this is what I’m telling you, she’s really good at this fame thing. And, yes, she’s only 26.
As for the fashion…
What the f-ck more can we say at this point? We retired her from Best Dressed consideration on this site because it’s just not fair anymore. Even when she shows up in a black dress it has to be The Most Perfect Black Dress. Look at it! It’s perfect! It’s a black dress, literally, for the ages. This dress will never not be fashionable – exquisitely made, a timeless silhouette, but still fresh and fun, and also totally suited to its legacy. She made history in this dress and the dress knows! The dress will hold up a hundred years from now!
And then she showed up at the afterparty looking like this!