Zendaya Details the "Heavy Responsibility" She Faces as a Black Woman in Hollywood

Zendaya discusses the "heavy responsibility" she feels as a young Black actress in Hollywood, in a time where there are increased calls for inclusivity
By Cydney Contreras Jun 24, 2020 10:21 PMTags
Zendaya, 2019 E! People's Choice Awards, Red Carpet FashionAmy Sussman/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank

Zendaya is opening up about what it means to be a Black woman in Hollywood.

Though the Euphoria star is only 23-years-old, she tells The Hollywood Reporter, along with actresses Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer AnistonHelena Bonham CarterRose Byrne and Janelle Monae, that she feels a "heavy responsibility on [her] shoulders" to be a positive role model, something she says she's "appreciative of."

"There's a lot of good that I can do and I know who is watching," the former Disney star explains. "Now, more than ever, specifically with Black Lives Matter and everything, I feel an obligation to make sure that I'm aware and putting out the right things and in line with organizers and people who are on the ground." 

Describing herself as her own "biggest critic," Zendaya says the pressure to avoid mistakes is a "constant thing."

"Being a young Disney actor, that's one level, being a young Black woman is one level, and then being very hard on myself is another level," she explains. "It's also just a personal fear. I want to do a good job, and sometimes that can cause you to be fearful of things. But I will say that there's something that happens when a special character comes along, for me at least, and those fears melt away."

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This desire to be self-aware and contribute to the movement, she shares, is what has encouraged her to push for roles that aren't written for actors of a specific race. Zendaya points to starring as Rue in Euphoria, a character based on show creator Sam Levinson's experience as a white man struggling with addiction. 

She says of the casting decision, "I'm very grateful and hopefully I'll be in a space like these ladies where I can create things and make space for women who look like me and women who don't look like me. That's the ultimate goal, to make room, [because] for a lot of Black creatives, it's not a lack of talent but a lack of opportunity."

Related: Zendaya Talks Connection to "Euphoria" at 2020 Critics' Choice Awards

On the other hand, Zendaya shares that she is considerate of the projects she takes on. "I also think it's important being a light-skinned woman to recognize my privilege in that sense as well and make sure that I'm not taking up space where I don't need to," the Spider-Man star states. 

The star previously shared that she doesn't want her and other actresses like Amandla Stenberg and Yara Shahidi to be seen as the token Black actresses in the industry. Zendaya said in 2018 to Marie Claire, "What is important to me is knowing we are not the only Black girls in the industry. We kind of have been painted as the face, and that's not the truth. It's important to have a conversation where we are opening the door to our peers and more black women who don't necessarily look like us."

In that same interview she shared her aspirations of starting her own production company so that she can "create" opportunities for other men and women like her.