Muse of the Month: Zendaya
At just 21 years old, Zendaya has already been making headlines for all the right reasons; a quick search and you'll see titles such as "activist, actress, singer, fashion It-girl" being linked to her name. From her musical talent to her unapologetic personality and her risk-taking sense of style (that always pays off, by the way), she's often described as "wise beyond her years", and she has proved herself to be the ideal role model at such a young age.
Her interest in the showbiz started as she grew up spending a lot of time at the California Shakespeare Theatre where her mother worked as a house manager. She started modelling for brands like Macy's and Old Navy when she was 12, but it wasn't until two years later where she scored a lead role on Disney Channel's popular tween show, Shake It Up. The series had the second highest-rated debut (after Hannah Montana), and it definitely helped launched her career. After the show ended, she got offered a lead role in K.C. Undercover, but in an interview with Vogue, she revealed that for her to be on the show, she had listed a series of "demands" to be met, from featuring a family of colour, to the role that she's going to play—she wanted the character to be smart, and instead of being good in dancing or singing, the girl should be martial arts-trained, as "there are other things that a girl can be". That was just the beginning of her seizing control of her star power (in the best way possible).
Born to a German-Scottish mother and an African-American father, Zendaya's name means "to give thanks" in Bantu, which is a native language of the Shona people in Zimbabwe. Growing up biracial, bullying was something that was unavoidable for Zendaya, but in an interview with New You magazine, she said "I was made fun of [in school], but it didn't bother me very much because I was very comfortable in who I was. I was taught as a young child by my parents and family to love myself." With a social media following of almost 45million on Instagram, a scroll through her feed and you'll notice half of the posts are dedicated to causes that she's passionate about, whether it's voicing out for the black community, LGBT rights, or people who are in need. To date, she has worked with organisations such as UNICEF, Make-A-Wish foundation and Keep A Child Alive organisation.
"That's the person I plan on being for a very long time: someone who stands up, someone who is an advocate for people, [even if it's for] something that some people think is only hair. I think it's more than just that. I want to be a spokesperson for self-love and for diversity." — Zendaya Coleman
One of the most memorable episodes was during the 2015 Oscars where Zendaya graced the red carpet in an off-shoulder Vivienne Westwood gown and dreadlocks. Giuliana Rancic, who was one of the hosts for Fashion Police, commented on her look of the night by saying that the star "probably smelled like patchouli and weed". Zendaya's poignant response (see below) got the support of many, including celebs such as Solange Knowles, Kerry Washington and Viola Davis, and those who didn't know her well at the time definitely took notice, and saw her in a new light.
Disney stars have often had a bad history when it comes to dressing "appropriately" as they transition from teenager to adults—often criticised as being sexualized too early, but for Zendaya, that's not the case. When it comes to her style, one thing's for sure: she doesn't play it safe. With the help of her stylist, Law Roach, who's also the person behind Celine Dion's head-turning looks, Zendaya has been a constant on many best-dressed lists. In an interview with Jezebel, Law mentioned that "The thing about [Zendaya] is that she doesn't have any fear. She's not scared to try anything and she's not afraid for something not to work." From bold silhouettes to colours and textures, you name it, she's done it. Aside from the constant red-carpet slaying, our favourite ensemble of hers are definitely her noteworthy Met Ball gowns.
Zendaya's boldest red-carpet looks:
She recently played Spiderman's love interest, MJ, in Spider-Man: Homecoming opposite Tom Holland, and although she initially faced backlash for being the first black actress to play MJ in the Spiderman franchise, nothing is stopping Zendaya as she has three movies slated to be released by next year. Her next feature film will be The Greatest Showman—a musical about P.T. Barnum who founded the Barnum & Bailey circus, alongside Zac Efron, Michelle Williams and Hugh Jackman. By the looks of it, everything is an uphill for the rising star from here, and we can't wait to see what she'll be up to next.
Not only a great role model for young children, Zendaya has set a great example on how we should live our lives. Here are some of her most inspiring quotes:
On being biracial:
"You get the best and the worst of both worlds. I know there were a lot of times when you try to figure out where you fit in. I just realized that it worked to my advantage because I just got along with a lot of people. But to literally be two races, it's really hard to see color because I'm the gray area. I had to learn about both sides of myself and be really proud of and educated in both."
"A feminist is a person who believes in the power of women just as much as they believe in the power of anyone else. It's equality, it's fairness, and I think it's a great thing to be a part of."
On voicing out:
"It's important to raise your voice in things you feel passionate about and things that you know about. Don't raise your voice just to raise your voice if you have nothing behind it and don't know what you're talking about."
On self confidence:
"You shouldn't feel discouraged if you're not waking up and feeling amazing yourself. That's not necessarily how it works. It doesn't take one shopping spree to give you that confidence. It's a developing process. Everyone goes at their own speed. As long as you take every opportunity to learn more about yourself and fall more in love with yourself every day, you're doing good."
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- Image: Getty Images
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