She’s only 21 years old but the actress doesn’t just bring her A game to the red carpet. She uses her voice to speak up about important issues that really matter to her.
From taking on magazines who photoshop her, to clapping back at people who criticise her for celebrating her hair. Remember that time she hit back at Fashion Police host, Giuliana Rancic's comments back in 2015 about her wearing dreadlocs to the Oscars?
She addressed the incident in an Instagram post back in 2015 where she noted that attitudes like Guiliana's – who associated the locs with stereotypical and racist imagery – only contributes to the already harsh criticism of African-American hair in our society.
Fierce, vocal and passionate about gender and identity, Zendaya also understands that it’s twice as hard for women of colour to make it in Hollywood, which is why in a recent interview with Marie Claire, she revealed that she deliberately asks to audition for roles that are meant for white women with the hope that studios would not only change their minds about casting, but that it would also open up doors for other black women.
She gets pretty candid and doesn’t hesitate to touch on the issue of colourism and mentions that it’s really important for her as a light-skinned black woman, "that I’m using my privilege, my platform to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community.”
READ MORE: The number of women in lead roles in Hollywood has increased by only 2% in the past 10 years
Zendaya specifically also talks about her experience when it came to auditioning for the role of Mary Jane in Spiderman and says that she took a major risk for the role because she just wasn’t sure if the studio would “go ethnic” Teen Vogue reports.
She adds that she wasn’t sure what to expect because she was so used to seeing people audition and break the rules but studios not doing anything to diversify their cast. She sees every opportunity to make herself visible as a stepping stone to being heard and seen.
Yes we’re seeing more diversity, we’ve still got a long way to go in terms of seeing more black women and men in prominent roles that showcase their talent and are featured in stories that don’t typecast them into specific roles that rely on a struggle or race hook.