Zendaya is considered one of Black Hollywood’s wildest desires.

At simply 24 years previous, the actress has led two profitable collection on two of the most important networks in TV land; performed the lead in an enormous blockbuster Marvel movie (a task that as much as that time had solely ever been portrayed by White ladies); and turn out to be the youngest girl ever to win the Emmy for excellent lead actress in a drama, attaining that this previous September. For a decade we’ve watched Zendaya Coleman navigate her profession, from youngster star to essential darling, with a degree of expertise, gumption and elegance that exhibits she hasn’t simply arrived—she’s right here to remain.

Yet, all that being mentioned, maybe essentially the most hanging factor about Zendaya is her means to stay grounded by way of all of it. The Oakland native is courageous sufficient to talk fact to energy and humble sufficient to know when to lend her highlight to others. She possesses a degree of grace and authenticity that provides you hope for the era she lights the best way for.

One of 4 digital cowl exclusives starring Zendaya.
Photography by AB + DM; inventive route and style styling by Law Roach; hair by Larry Sims; make-up by Sheika Daley; and manicure by Chaun Legend.

After an hour on the cellphone with the Euphorie (which returns for 2 particular episodes in December) star for this interview, it turns into clear she’s a manifestation of the hopes and arduous work of most of the legends who’ve graced this journal’s cowl earlier than her. Zendaya’s consciousness—and fixed intention to pay homage whereas carrying our legacy ahead—makes her the right star to pay tribute to the icons of the previous as she turns into a number one power within the current.

First of all, congratulations in your historic Emmy win. What was going by way of your thoughts proper earlier than they referred to as your identify?

ZENDAYA: There’s a video of me {that a} household pal took whereas I used to be ready, and you may see my leg shaking. In my head I used to be like, Dude, simply relax. What might be, might be. I keep in mind taking a deep breath, after which listening to my identify, after which my household screamed. I used to be frightened that in the event that they saved screaming for too lengthy, I wouldn’t have any time to really say something—however I didn’t wish to cease them, as a result of they had been having a good time. It was a really particular evening. I’ll positively keep in mind that one eternally.

I really like that you just targeted your speech on how there’s hope in younger individuals. Why was that necessary so that you can champion throughout your huge second?

ZENDAYA: It simply looks like numerous the time, particularly for younger Black individuals, you’re birthed right into a system that’s not constructed for you. It’s on us to take it from right here and hopefully make it higher. But it doesn’t actually seem like that proper now—and the individuals in cost don’t wish to take heed to us. But it’s necessary to lean into hope and lean into the gorgeous issues that I see my friends doing, whether or not by way of their activism or by way of their artwork. It’s extraordinarily inspiring for me to observe and be part of. I wished to talk to the ability of that and allow them to know, what you’re combating for does imply one thing, and you’re supported and seen.

Zendaya is considered one of Black Hollywood’s wildest desires.
Zendaya wears a FANSYXVS costume and customized Aminah Abdul Jillil sandals. | Photography by AB + DM

The significance of your win may simply be seen from the reactions throughout the web, particularly from younger Hollywood. Your friends, like your Euphorie co-star Storm Reid and the Unsicher solid, shared movies on social media of themselves screaming over your achievement. What did that help imply to you?

ZENDAYA: I’m honored to have that help, particularly from my fellow younger Black creatives. Through this Emmy’s interval, particularly, I felt a powerful sense of help inside our neighborhood, which I’m actually grateful for.

Would you say that younger Black Hollywood is constant the form of camaraderie that we’ve seen within the generations earlier than you?

ZENDAYA: I feel what’s slowly beginning to occur is, artists like Issa Rae and Lena Waithe have created alternatives which have resulted in additional of us being in these rooms. That’s such a particular feeling, and I feel it’s positively altering the concept there can solely be “one at a time,” which is fake. I like to see that real love and respect for one another’s work. I hope that we proceed to develop that in every kind of gorgeous methods, as a result of I feel we’re on a very good path.

“A lot of what I do, specifically within fashion, is a tribute to the fashion icons who came before me, many of whom are Black women.”

You all make the way forward for Hollywood really feel vivid, which is why I really like that your cowl might be closing ESSENCE’s Fiftieth-anniversary yr. It looks like a passing of the torch. What does this second imply to you?

ZENDAYA: I’m extremely grateful—as a result of with out the unimaginable, iconic individuals who have graced the quilt earlier than me, I wouldn’t be right here, standing on the shoulders of giants. To have the ability to do that cowl right now is basically particular to me. I additionally felt very excited that ESSENCE allowed Law [Roach] and me to be part of the inventive staff and do one thing somewhat bit completely different. I had a lot enjoyable on this shoot paying homage to Donyale Luna, the primary Black supermodel. Lots of what I do, particularly inside style, is a tribute to style icons who got here earlier than me—a lot of whom are Black ladies. I really like the best way it turned out. I’m very happy with it. It’s considered one of my favourite cowl shoots I’ve ever finished.

On Zendaya, customized Lorraine West earrings. | Photographed by AB + DM

When I consider the legacy you’re creating, one of many first issues that involves thoughts is the all-Black glam staff you preserve round you. Your staff creates this area for you within the high-fashion dialog that Black ladies don’t all the time get to be part of. How intentional are you with regards to lifting as you climb—and being cognizant of what you and Law Roach are doing in style?

ZENDAYA: That’s all the time been necessary to Law and me. Law teaches me a lot about style historical past. It’s actually necessary to us to help younger Black designers and Black photographers, as a result of the help often simply isn’t there for them. Lots of smaller manufacturers and designers had been those that supported me earlier than I used to be being dressed by larger manufacturers. There’s not often a glance, or something that we do in style, that doesn’t have a narrative. Everything is completed with intention.

Another accomplice of yours is Euphorie creator Sam Levinson. You two had been among the many first to discover a solution to adapt and make a movie, Malcolm & Marie, when the pandemic first shut Hollywood down. What was that have like, and the way did it aid you deal with the quarantine?

“It’s important to lean into hope and lean into the beautiful things that I see my peers doing, whether through their activism or through their art.”

ZENDAYA: It was a dream, as a result of I’ve all the time wished to have the ability to simply strip the whole lot away. I really like what I do—and like most individuals, I used to be discovering methods to remain impressed and keep inventive, and fortuitously I do know people who find themselves the identical method. It was nice sitting in a room with John David Washington, Marcell Rév and Sam, actually writing scenes as we went, arising with concepts as we moved by way of the characters, and discovering new issues on daily basis. That was the best half. That is why I do that.

I used to be very excited—and possibly barely jealous— to see John David Washington was enjoying your romantic lead. You each are in such thrilling locations in your careers.

ZENDAYA: I used to be simply fortunate to share the stage with John David Washington, who’s sensible. He’s extraordinarily proficient and such a power. Being capable of work throughout from him positively pushed me to be higher. It was very particular.

Zendaya is considered one of Black Hollywood’s wildest desires.
On Zendaya, Khaite costume and Stuart Weitzman sneakers (not proven). | Photography by AB + DM

You co-produced Malcolm & Marie [which was acquired by Netflix last month] and have joined forces with Reese Witherspoon to provide A White Lie, which additionally, you will star in. Do you propose to turn out to be extra concerned behind the scenes?

ZENDAYA: I really like with the ability to create what I wish to see made. I’m additionally actually concerned with cinematography. Maybe I’ll turn out to be a director, or a director of images. I’m simply actually taking in all that data and studying as a lot as I can. I actually love the artwork of really making movie.

I’ve discovered you and Levinson are additionally at present filming one thing for the Euphorie Anhänger. [At press time, HBO announced Euphorie will return with two special episodes and the first one airs December 6.]

ZENDAYA: Sam and I speak quite a bit over the cellphone, and through a kind of conversations he was like, “What if we just did a few little in-between episodes that we could put between the seasons, just to give people something?” He wrote these lovely episodes that really stemmed from a scene he wrote for the second season that I used to be obsessive about. Then he mainly turned it into one lengthy episode. The storytelling technique is so completely different from the primary season. It looks like Euphorie however feels nothing like Euphorie, in a gorgeous method. And it talks about issues—particularly for Hunter Schafer’s character, Jules—that I feel have by no means been explored earlier than. You get to sit down with the characters in a deeper method. I used to be so excited to have the ability to get again to it, as a result of I miss enjoying Rue. Being capable of get again into her Chucks positively was very, very particular for me.

I’m fascinated by how artwork manages to thrive throughout essentially the most antagonistic occasions. We’re coping with COVID, the Black Lives Matter motion and extra, however Black storytellers are nonetheless out right here, creating lovely and nuanced work.

ZENDAYA: The degree of creativity and ingenuity, particularly on this time, is inspiring. Everything we’re confronted with proper now, particularly Black Lives Matter, is traumatic. These are our brothers and sisters we’re watching be murdered. I feel to beat that in any method, and in addition to permit ourselves that area to have pleasure, to have lovely issues, to handle ourselves, to take care of every other-—it’s so necessary.

It’s additionally been encouraging to observe Black individuals win within the midst of such a troublesome yr—however Black ladies, particularly, have a tendency to hold extra guilt about that juxtaposition than most. Has that been one thing you’ve handled?

ZENDAYA: Absolutely. I perceive it fully. I felt bizarre celebrating my Emmy win. And it was just a few days later that we heard the Breonna Taylor ruling, which was devastating. We’re additionally typically advised to not have a good time our victories. I’ve seen numerous tweets and stuff urging Black ladies to be mild with themselves. I’ve been attempting to be taught extra about that, and the way I can assist with that—as a result of it truly is so necessary proper now.

It’s so layered—as a result of when you could also be feeling responsible, it’s additionally true that your Emmy win gave us a way of pleasure that I felt the neighborhood wanted at that second. It was good to see everyone have one thing to have a good time on the timeline. 

ZENDAYA: Yes. When I used to be in quarantine and Megan Thee Stallion dropped the “Savage Remix” with Beyoncé, I’ve by no means felt extra pleasure from a music popping out.

Zendaya is considered one of Black Hollywood’s wildest desires.
On Zendaya, Gigi Hunter robe. | Photography by AB + DM

Ha! I used to be going to ask you what has been bringing you pleasure. I really like that the “Savage Remix’’ is a kind of issues, as a result of, similar!

ZENDAYA: Seeing Black ladies win, in any type, brings me pleasure. I used to be simply Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty style present, and I used to be like, “You better, girl! Bad-gal Riri is giving us what we need right now!” Then there are additionally small issues—like a dialog with my grandmother, who I’ve to name after this as a result of I preserve forgetting. Hearing her voice is like meals for the soul.

Since that is the end-of-year problem, my final query for you is: What’s your New Year’s want for Black ladies?

ZENDAYA: For us to proceed to totally notice our energy and harness it to do nice issues, as a result of we’re extremely highly effective. We’re typically satisfied that we’re not, and taught to shrink—however we’ve to consider in our collective energy. I all the time consider that Beyoncé music, “They’ll never take my power, my power, my power.” Let’s take that power into the brand new yr.

Sylvia Obell (@sylviaobell) is a journalist and on-air expertise who co-hosts Netflix’s Okay, Now Listen podcast. She profiled Lizzo for ESSENCE’s June 2019 problem.

Zendaya November/December 2020 ESSENCE cowl credit:
Photography by AB+DM
Creative Direction and Fashion Styling by Law Roach
Hair by Larry Sims/Flawless/Forward Artists.
Makeup by Sheika Daley.
Manicure by Chaun Legend/opi/The Only Agency.
Set design by Ward Robinson/Wooden Ladder.
Production by Natalie Gialluca, Naydea Davis and Jordan Brewster.

This interview initially appeared within the November/December 2020 problem of ESSENCE journal, accessible on newsstands November 24.

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