Zendaya on the pressure of being a young Black woman in Hollywood: 'I have a heavy responsibility on my shoulders'
Zendaya is only 23 years old, but she is well aware that the world watches her with every movement - and what that means. The Euphoria star, along with Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Janelle Monáe, Helena Bonham Carter and Rose Byrne, took part in the Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable, where she talked about the pressure associated with being a role model for her young fans be.
Zendaya had her big break at the age of 13 with Shake It Up on the Disney Channel, a very different audience than those who hear HBO's Euphoria. The actress admitted that she had “a heavy responsibility” on her shoulders when asked if she was concerned with what her fan base could do and how it affected her decisions.
"I have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, but I am grateful for it because I can do a lot of good with it and I know who is watching," said the Spider-Man: Homecoming star. "Now, more than ever, especially at Black Lives Matter and everything, I feel obliged to make sure that I know and get the right things out and that I am in tune with the organizers and people who are on site."
Zendaya says she feels "constant" pressure not to make a mistake when she's a Disney star and a young black woman in Hollywood. (Reuters)
Unlike many Disney stars, Zendaya was able to avoid the inevitable danger of becoming tabloid food for bad behavior. She also avoided being typed. (Just watch her as a teenage drug addict, Rue Bennett in Euphoria.) Zendaya said she was worried about her next move before signing up for the HBO show.
"I think like many artists I am my biggest critic, so part of it was internal - I didn't want to make a mistake or worry that I might not have the space to make a mistake, and I wanted to do it next Train. But I also wanted to prove myself, ”she remarked. “When Euphoria came, I was very grateful because all of these fears were gone and I felt that it was something I had to attend. So the fear of pushing yourself became easy. If you go to work and are scared, that's a good thing. You should be concerned if you can. "
When asked what she meant when she said "not wanting to make a mistake," Zendaya admitted that she puts both personal and professional pressure on her not to make a mistake.
"It's a constant thing. Being a young Disney actor is one level, being a young black woman is one level, and then it's another level to be very hard on myself. It's just a personal fear, ”she said. “I want to do a good job, and sometimes that can make you afraid of things. But I will say that something happens when a special character appears, at least for me, and these fears disappear. They only come back when it is broadcast. Then I got a little scared again. But now I'm looking forward to going back because the motivation is to work harder and become a better actress. I just want to get better. "
Zendaya has earned a lot of credit for playing Rue, which may not have happened if her agents had no clear instructions as to what she was looking for. The actress had previously told her representatives that they should only take her to an auditorium, even if a role she wanted was not written for a black woman. (There was "no description" for Rue's character.) While the actress said that "absolutely" is still the case, she wanted to acknowledge her own privilege.
"I also think it is important to be a fair-skinned woman in order to recognize my privilege in this sense and to ensure that I don't take a place where I don't need it," she notes.
"I think that was a choice for me. Our creator [Sam Levinson] wrote Rue based on his own experience of addiction and he's a white man, so Rue could have been. Rue had no description," Zendaya revealed. She said her "ultimate goal" was to make room for more black people in the entertainment industry.
"I am very grateful and hope that I will be in a room like these ladies where I can create things and create space for women who look like me and women who do not look like me," she added . "This is the ultimate goal of making room [because] for many black creatives there is not a lack of talent, but opportunities."
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