Zendaya, An Unlikely Disney Star, Owns Her Opinions & Shuts Down Racist Comments

At 18 years old, Zendaya Coleman might just have more opinions than most adults do. “I think it’s all just how I was raised. My parents are both educators and the way they raised me was to always be aware of what’s going on in my business as well as in my personal life,” she explains. While many adults find forming their own opinions to be difficult, Zendaya doesn’t. “My parents never really sheltered me from anything. They were always very open with me, which is probably why I’m able to be real.”

 “I realized that if I don’t like something, I can change it. If I don’t feel comfortable with something, then I have a voice to say it’s not cool.”

That same philosophy was especially necessary after Giuliana Rancic’s infamous racist comments about Zendaya’s dreadlocks on the 2015 Oscars red carpet. “My parents always taught me that there is knowledge in your voice. I could have clapped back and gone off. Of course I wanted to, everyone wants to do that. I just kept thinking there were other young people dealing with the same kind of issue who were watching me to see how I would respond.” She continues, “I think the way we react to things is a big indicator of our character and what type of person we are. I just had too much respect for myself and didn’t want to prove everybody right that’s waiting for me to be ignorant and do something dumb, so I took my time until I thought of the best way I could address the comments.”

Like many young people, Zendaya had to learn how to use her voice. “I realized that if I don’t like something, I can change it. If I don’t feel comfortable with something, then I have a voice to say it’s not cool.” But unlike most kids, she had to find herself in the limelight while filming Shake It Up for Disney Channel. “I didn’t start feeling comfortable using my voice until after Shake It Up ended.” As a 15-year-old, that makes sense.

 “I’m not the type of person to hide myself from what is happening. I’m the type of person that likes to face something and either change it or learn to be okay with it.”

However mature Zendaya may be, she’s not trying to grow up too fast. “What about your new Disney show, KC Undercover, was appealing to you?” I ask.

“There’s not many girls on television who get to kick butt but are also educated and strong,” she explains. “I feel like KC is just a good role model for boys and girls. It’s not gender specific—it’s for everyone to watch.” With everyone watching, Zendaya doesn’t feel the need to stop enjoying her youth, “I like making goals, but not putting pressure [on myself] to have to get something done. I’m young, so I just like to enjoy my life and not necessarily know what’s next,” she admits. “Honestly, I totally forgot I was doing this and my mom picked me up and said, ‘You have a shoot today!’ and I said, ‘Okay, let’s go!’ I don’t like to be too wrapped up in details. I’m on the ride and I just want to live it and enjoy it.”

Whether Disney was aware of the power they gave Zendaya or not, she’s now able to influence her younger audience while they’re forming their own identities. Unlike many of her Disney Channel co-stars, she embraces the opportunity to make statements. Zendaya is a role model and she knows it. “There’s a lot you can do without trying,” she says. “Graduating high school or doing something as little as posting my senior portrait is really inspiring to a lot of kids my age who might be having trouble getting through high school.” She adds, “Hopefully, I’m showing people that if I can do it, they can do it.”

“Your honest social media posts are definitely spreading a positive message. Does being so real ever affect you negatively?” I ask.

“No. I think it would be worse to post things or say things that are fake,” she responds. “When people catch you not being the version of yourself you tried to portray, then people are like, ‘Who is this person?’ and I think that’s bad. I’d rather just be Zendaya the whole time and have no problems.

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Tart Coat, Mugler PantsAmerican Apparel BraThe Way We Wore Belt, Chanel NecklaceRuthie Davis Shoes, Cartier Sunglasses

Galore Mag Zendaya

Tart Coat, American Apparel BandeauChanel Necklace & Jennifer Fisher Rings

Galore Mag Zendaya

Tart Coat, Mugler PantsAmerican Apparel BraThe Way We Wore Belt, Chanel NecklaceCartier Sunglasses & Jennifer Fisher Rings

Maria Lucia Hohan DressFausto Puglisi JacketThe Way We Wore BeltRuthie Davis ShoesVivienne Westwood Necklace

Tart Coat, Mugler PantsAmerican Apparel BraThe Way We Wore Belt, Chanel NecklaceCartier Sunglasses & Jennifer Fisher Rings

Tart Coat, Mugler PantsAmerican Apparel BraChanel Necklace & Jennifer Fisher Rings

Galore Mag Zendaya

Vivienne Westwood DressRuthie Davis BootsJennifer Fisher Jewelry, Pluma NecklaceBernard Chicago Hat &The Way We Wore Belt

Tart CoatMugler PantsAmerican Apparel BraThe Way We Wore Belt, Chanel NecklaceCartier Sunglasses & Jennifer Fisher Rings
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Photography & Creative Direction by Jacob Dekat + Prince Chenoa

Fashion Direction by Alexandra Mandelkorn

Styling by Law Roach

Hair by Tymothe Wallace

Makeup by Allan Avendano

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