Why Zendaya Says She's So Inspired By Issa Rae And More Leading Black Actresses In Hollywood

Zendaya in HBO's Euphoria

In a year all but written off as a loss by Hollywood, Zendaya sure is pulling out all the stops. The child singer/dancer/actress is no more, and now Zendaya is a full force to be reckoned with. Having recently won an Emmy for best actress, making her the youngest woman in history to receive the award, Zendaya takes time to give thanks to those who have inspired her in her career: Issa Rae among other leading Black actresses and filmmakers.

During an interview she did for her cover issue of Essence, Zendaya gives credits to female Black TV and film professionals who have paved the way for her and others like her. After all, she's got a variety of producing credits coming. In her own words:

Artists like Issa Rae and Lena Waithe have created opportunities that have resulted in more of us being in these rooms. That’s such a special feeling, and I think it’s definitely changing the idea that there can only be ‘one at a time,’ which is false. I love to see that genuine love and respect for each other’s work. I hope that we continue to expand that in all kinds of beautiful ways, because I think we’re on a really good path.

Zendaya’s “one at a time” comment is in reference to the lack of Black folks represented in Hollywood. This isn’t the first we have heard of this trend; another notable instance possibly being Dave Chappelle, the king of controversy, telling the story of how he was once rejected by HBO because they already had a Black comedian.

Although we are seeing more and more representation in Hollywood and more diversity in breakout actors, there is a long way to go. Like her inspirations Issa Rae and Lena Waithe, Zendaya herself is a champion for change in Hollywood. With her part as MJ in Marvel’s new Spiderman series, she has taken upon herself a historically white role and with her blunt sense of humor made it one that is not only entirely relatable, but incredibly likable.

Zendaya not only recognizes her position as a young champion to Black youth, but she embraces the social responsibility, saying that there may be more work to be done and she is here for it. As she went on to explain in the same interview,

It just feels like a lot of the time, especially for young Black people, you’re birthed into a system that’s not built for you. It’s on us to take it from here and hopefully make it better. But it doesn’t really look like that right now—and the people in charge don’t like to listen to us. But 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. It’s extremely inspiring for me to watch and be a part of. I wanted to speak to the power of that and let them know, what you’re fighting for does mean something, and you are supported and seen.

With an already impressive resume that dates back to when the actress was just 14 years old, Zendaya has continue to progress and transform her career. With the previously mentioned role as MJ in Spiderman and her part in The OA, the actress distanced herself from her child star image. Now, with her Emmy winning performance in HBO’s Euphoria and her portrayal as Chani in the upcoming remake of the iconic Dune, She is pulling away from a strictly teen image into more serious, mature roles.

It’s clear that Zendaya, unlike a lot of Disney child stars, is here to stay. Not only that, but she is here for change. Zendaya has emerged in a promising time in Hollywood - the road being paved as she steps, leaving room for her to lay a few bricks of her own. And we'll just have to wait and see the projects she produces and stars in moving forward.

You can stay up to date on all of Zendaya’s projects on Cinemablend, of which there are sure to be many.

Carlie Hoke
Content Writer

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.