In a recent interview for Glamour, actress Yara Shahidi of black-ish and her upcoming spinoff, grown-ish, interviewed fellow young actress Zendaya and talked to her about a number of things, including the diversity she demanded at Disney Channel.
Zendaya has had two stints at Disney Channel. One was at Shake It Up from 2010-2013, and she’s starred in K.C. Undercover since 2015. The latter is finishing up its final season on the network.
K.C. Undercover, which revolves around a family of black spies, was originally titled, Super Awesome Katy. Calling the title “wack,” the 21-year-old, who is one of the youngest producers ever on the network asked executives, “Do I look like a Katy to you?”
When Shahidi asked Zendaya about what inspired her confidence to demand what needed to happen with the show, she said, “I didn’t feel like there was any other choice. I was like, “If I’m going to do this, this is how it has to be.” There needs to be a black family on the Disney Channel. A lot of people who aren’t people of color can’t quite understand what it’s like to grow up and not see yourself in mainstream media. And you know, there is so much work left to be done. I’ve talked about this before, but can I honestly say I would be in the position I’m in if I weren’t a lighter-skinned black woman? No.”
In earlier interviews, she’s stated that she specifically came back to Disney for a second series because she wanted more diversity on the youth cable network.
What’s in the young star’s future as her time at Disney is wrapping up? She’s already pegged a huge role in the new Spider-Man franchise, will star in the upcoming P.T. Barnum biopic, and this is probably just of the tip of the iceberg for her trajectory over the next few years.
She calls herself a love child between Beyonce, Shonda Rhimes, Oprah and Michelle Obama.
“I mean, Shonda—she saw something nobody else was doing and said, ‘I’m going to create it myself. I’m going to put strong, powerful women of color in lead roles and create narratives for different types of people.’ And she owns a day. She owns Thursdays.”
You can read the full, insightful interview at Glamour.