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Yara Shahidi Opens Up About Growing Up In The Industry As A Young Black Woman On Black-ish

Yara Shahidi in Freeform's grown-ish
(Image credit: Freeform)

Audiences have pretty much watched black-ish star Yara Shahidi grow up before their eyes, from her early film roles and work on the ABC sitcom to her lead role in the spinoff grown-ish. With the OG show in the franchise having premiered in 2014, it's safe to say that Shahidi has played fashionable eldest Johnson child Zoey for some time now. Since the Anthony Anderson-led show aired it series finale earlier this year, the rising star has been building on her career as an adult in Hollywood. As she goes from child to adult star, the actress is reflecting on growing up in the industry as a young Black woman.

The grown-ish lead delved into the subject of growing up in today’s world on the heels of directing an episode of the Disney+ docuseries Growing Up, a docuseries produced and created by The Marvels’ Brie Larson. While speaking about the gig in an interview with Yahoo!, Yara Shahidi expressed gratitude for the safety she felt during her time as a child actress on the ABC series:                        

I’ve been grateful for that, for the most part. I haven’t had absolutely absurd experiences within this industry. And I felt very protected by the presence of my parents and other people.

The experiences that child stars have can definitely vary from one another, and it seems like the Imagine That star was protected by her parents during her time on television. Of course, she also had her black-ish parents, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, to school her on the business and prepare her for the future. The 22-year-old star's recent moves prove she is prepared for life in Hollywood beyond the world of network television.

While she felt protected by her family and others, Yara Shahidi knew that growing up as a young Black actress in Hollywood was a unique experience. She became more aware of her situation as she started doing interviews with certain publications. Apparently, Shahidi felt her extensive vocabulary was used against her to paint her in an unflattering light:

But I do have to say that, as a young woman, as a young Black girl, I know I’ve done many moments where I’ve had interviews or I’ve opened myself up and suddenly they jumped to the conclusion that, if I use too many big words, I’m a politician or I’m afraid to open up, or I’m protecting something. I remember there being a moment where I felt like I was being really authentic and I kept seeing these things, and I was like, how did you land here? How did you put your own stuff on my story?

Being yourself can be a difficult thing when you're a public figure. In the case of Yara Shahidi, it really shouldn't be too surprising at this point to learn that she has an extensive vocabulary. After all, she graduated from Harvard University with a double major in social and African American studies. So there should be no denying that she's a true intellect.

The actress' situation is something that seemed to draw her to Growing Up. The upcoming streaming series will profile 11 young people across its 10 episodes. The show will document each young person’s coming-of-age experience through their unique qualities while facing adversity in the world around them. It should be an insightful show and a shining addition to Yara Shahidi's growing resume.

The star has other projects on the way, including her role as Tinker Bell in the Disney+ live-action remake Peter Pan & Wendy. She’ll also appear in the upcoming Apple TV+ anthology series Extrapolations in an undisclosed role. It's great to see the black-ish star branching out and making her own mark on the entertainment industry. But what's even sweeter is that as time goes on, her path could serve as an inspiration to other young Black women looking to follow in her footsteps.

Growing Up will premiere on September 8 as part of the Disney+ Day lineup in September. In the meantime, viewers can watch Yara Shahidi on the fifth season of grown-ish alongside her on-screen brother, Marcus Scribner, when the show premieres new episodes on Freeform on Wednesdays at 10 pm EST as part of the 2022 TV schedule. You can also catch up on every season of the college comedy by getting a Hulu subscription.  

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).