The children are our future, and I know that because Yara Shahidi is one of them.
Actress Shahidi, from black-ish and grown-ish, is out here, an advocate and activist who is using her ever-growing platform and popular social media presence to raise awareness about feminism, social justice issues, and especially youth voting rights with her organization Eighteenx18.
As a biracial woman of black and Iranian descent, Shahidi speaks openly and often about both sides of her family and her cultural identity, and she’s part of a group of young actresses — alongside friends Zendaya and Rowan Blanchard — who are open about their politics and their hopes for changing the world, like when she attended the March for Our Lives rally in Los Angeles.
Take a look at Shahidi’s Twitter (with its profile photo of James Baldwin and the Langston Hughes quote, “We, too, are America,” repeated by President Barack Obama at the 2016 opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture) and you’ll get an immediate sense of who she is: a person engaged in literature and art (her father was Prince’s personal photographer), curious about the world and others’ experiences, and devoted to causes that will improve the world, retweeting messages about the #FamiliesBelongTogether march on June 30 and the continuing Flint water crisis as well as supportive words for fellow Pajiba 10 candidate Terry Crews. It’s a clear glimpse into who Shahidi is and what she considers her responsibilities as a role model, and it’s hopeful as hell.
Important thread✨ https://t.co/6CCS02eKsq— Yara shahidi (@YaraShahidi) June 22, 2018
As we celebrate #Juneteenth, we keep in mind the work that must still be done to achieve real equity and how integral this is to achieving our mission.— NNEDV (@nnedv) June 19, 2018
(Love this 💯 reminder from @YaraShahidi at @USOWomen's #USOW2018!) pic.twitter.com/4pyVEhWuNH
Need a more personal opinion? This is what Blanchard said about her in Teen Vogue in 2016:
Yara’s seeming contradictions are what make her so singular, especially in a world where the message women and people of color tend to hear is that they can be one thing rather than possess the multitude of identities we all encapsulate. Particularly in Hollywood, which can feel like a hierarchy where girls are encouraged to see each other as competition rather than people worth getting to know, Yara has taught me that sisterhood is thicker than any of these notions.
And this is what Shahidi in turn said about her friend Zendaya in Glamour in October 2017:
Personally, as a young black actress, I’m happy when people see themselves reflected in my professional work, and that I’m able to tell those narratives. But it has never been—and will never be—my or Zendaya’s intention to be the only versions of “blackness” in the world of entertainment.
Aside from straightforward politics, Shahidi is using her popularity to disrupt various spheres that in previous years wouldn’t have been open to people who look like her. She’s regularly one of the most uniquely stylish figures on any red carpet and has become a muse for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel (get lost in her Tom and Lorenzo archive here).
She’s rocking a Harvard University sweatshirt in Drake’s music video for “Nice for What”, and she’s elevating the work of other women of color, like Iranian fashion designer Melody Ehsani, whose earrings and other accessories are often sported by Shahidi, Janelle Monáe, Tessa Thompson, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu.
Oh, and she’s a great actress! She is the grounding force of grown-ish, which feels like a throwback but tackles present-day issues with humor and authenticity on Freeform, and I’m curious about how she’ll continue to balance everything while starting at Harvard this fall. When your college recommendation letter is written by Michelle Obama, you have a lot to live up to — but I’m sure Shahidi can handle it on top of her Pajiba 10 responsibilities.
Listen to the woman and vote!
[Header of Shahidi and her gorgeous family, and a few other images, courtesy of Getty]