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Zendaya has been a role model for young girls since her big break as Rocky on Disney Channel’s Shake It Up.
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After the show wrapped, her costar, Bella Thorne, went on to big-screen roles. But Z? She stayed in the Disney family a little longer — producing and starring in K.C. Undercover, a show about a family of African American spies.
In a recent interview with Black-ish star Yara Shahidi for Glamour, Zendaya opened up about why she decided to stay at Disney and bring K.C. Undercover to the screen.
“I didn’t feel like there was any other choice,” she explained. “I was like, ‘If I’m going to do this, this is how it has to be.’ There needs to be a black family on the Disney Channel. A lot of people who aren’t people of color can’t quite understand what it’s like to grow up and not see yourself in mainstream media.”
Zendaya went on to acknowledge her own looks, and how they’ve impacted her opportunities: “I’ve talked about this before, but can I honestly say I would be in the position I’m in if I weren’t a lighter-skinned black woman? No,” she said.
Shahidi completely agreed with the sentiment, and added that while both she and Zendaya want to see more representation of black people (and other minorities) in pop culture, they don’t want to be the only versions of “blackness” people see.
“It has never been , and will never be, my or Zendaya’s intention to be the only versions of ‘blackness’ in the world of entertainment,” Shahidi wrote.
In fact, they both want media to be so full of black voices, that theirs get lost sometimes.
“My goal is not to be the face of black girls,” Shahidi said. “The goal is to open the door so widely that I am drowning in a sea of…”
“In a sea of black girls,” Zendaya added. “Absolutely.”
Conversations like these need to happen more, and we couldn’t be happier that Shahidi and Zendaya shared this one on such a public platform. Bravo, ladies!