- Zendaya broke out as a Disney Channel star when she was 14 years old.
- She’s gone on to become a blockbuster star in franchises like “Spider-Man.”
- The actress/singer/activist has released her own album, written a book, and made a clothing line.
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Although her stage name is just Zendaya — pronounced Zen-DAY-uh — her full given name holds important meaning for the star’s heritage.
“I have my African first name, I have a middle name that is [my mom’s] middle name, which is French, but we did it African spelling, so it’s literally me in a name,” she told Us Weekly in 2016. “And then you have Stoermer, and then you have Coleman. I literally have, like, a timeline in history in my name.”
“I tried out for the lead, but I ended up being cast as the silkworm. I didn’t have any lines, but you know what? I killed it,” she said. “I was a worm, but I was reacting and giving face, and I was the best dang silkworm there ever was.”
“As a kid, my main interest was dancing. When I was 8 years old, I was in a hip-hop troupe,” she said.
“That’s a funny commercial because it’s so weird to think that later on — Ross [Lynch] was in it, Leo Howard was in it — and we were backup dancers, we weren’t even the lead kids,” she told the publication. “It’s funny where things evolved from and it’s cool to start small.”
She also guest-starred on other Disney Channel shows, including “Good Luck Charlie” and “A.N.T. Farm.”
“The tween years can be really fun and exciting, but they can also be a tough time in a girl’s life,” she told Business Wire in 2013. “You’re just finding your voice and personal style. There’s a lot of drama in relationships with other girls, parents, siblings, teachers, and boys. I hope this book will help girls through the tougher parts of the tween years and help them appreciate the fun parts.”
“The only way I was going to come back to the Disney Channel was if I was in a position of more power,” she told Cosmopolitan in 2016 . “One thing that is really important to me is diversity on the channel. It’s hard as a young person of a different ethnicity or background to look at the TV and not see anyone who looks like you. Representation is very important.”
She also had specific conditions for how her character was presented on the show.
“I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t good at singing or acting or dancing. That she wasn’t artistically inclined … There are other things that a girl can be,” Zendaya told Vogue in 2017. “I want her to be martial arts-trained. I want her to be able to do everything that a guy can do … But I also want her to be socially awkward, not a cool kid. I want her to be normal with an extraordinary life.”
Rancic said her dreadlocks must have smelled of “patchouli” and “weed,” and the teen responded with a widely applauded Instagram post.
“There is a fine line between what is funny and what is disrespectful,” part of the Instagram post read. “… My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough. To me, locs are a symbol of strength and beauty …”
Later that year, Mattel created a Barbie that matched her red-carpet look to honor the young star for being a role model.
“The doll looks exactly like my look! Literally down to my pinkie ring,” she told Vogue after the doll was released. “I really appreciate that they took the time to make [the doll] super detailed and took time with the hair, because obviously the hair was so important.”
“Had a new shoot come out today and was shocked when I found my 19-year-old hips and torso quite manipulated. These are the things that make women self-conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have,” she wrote on Instagram.
The caption continued, “Anyone who knows who I am knows I stand for honest and pure self-love. So I took it upon myself to release the real pic (right side) and I love it. Thank you @modelistemagazine for pulling down the images and fixing this retouch issue.”
Modeliste pulled the photos before the issue was published, and it also released a letter from the editor thanking Zendaya for addressing the situation.
She made the announcement via Instagram, and she later told Teen Vogue, “Covergirl celebrates powerful, beautiful, and strong women of different races and ethnicities. It’s inspiring. I’m thrilled to be part of the diversity and expansion of beauty.”
Later that year, she also appeared in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” visual album.
“It was beautiful because it hit on so many points, not just about feminism or empowerment but it talked about heartbreak and healing all at the same time,” she told Seventeen of working with Beyoncé. “It touched on cultural and societal issues … It was so empowering as a black woman to watch it and be a part of it.”
“This time around I wanted it to be a little more wearable,” she told Vogue in 2017. “I guess you could say [it’s] elevated streetwear — something that’s easy to dress up and dress down, comfortable and realistic for your everyday person.”
She also said that she worked to make the line “gender fluid” and affordable so it was more accessible for everyone.
It was her first feature-film role, and she starred alongside Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon.
Zendaya is set to star as Anita Hemmings in the film, which is based on the novel “The Gilded Years” by Karin Tanabe, and she’s set to produce it alongside Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company.
No date has been set for the film’s release.
“I think the [music] industry takes a little bit of passion away from you,” she said. “It sucks you dry a little bit. What I thought I wanted, it’s not what I want anymore, [especially] when I think about what I had to deal with in the music industry.”
She also shared advice for anyone who is looking to break into the industry.
“If anyone asks my number one advice, for [the entertainment] industry in general but mostly the music industry, it’s look over those contracts, every single word, and don’t sign anything that isn’t worth it to you,” she added. “You are worth more than they will say that you are.”
Her character, Rue, struggles with anxiety, depression, and drug addiction on the series, so the actress posted a trigger warning on Instagram before the show was released.
“Just a reminder before tonight’s premiere, that ‘Euphoria’ is for mature audiences. It’s a raw and honest portrait of addiction, anxiety and the difficulties of navigating life today,” she wrote. “There are scenes that are graphic, hard to watch and can be triggering. Please only watch if you feel you can handle it.”
HBO renewed the show for a second season, but the release date hasn’t been announced.
In the summer of that same year, she voiced Lola Bunny in “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”