Zendaya Explains Why Strangers Mistook Her as "Cold" and "Mean"

In a new cover story for GQ, Zendaya opened up about overcoming her childhood shyness and speaking her mind.

By Elyse Dupre Jan 11, 2021 4:04 PMTags
Watch: Zendaya's Road to Emmys 2020

As an actress, Emmy winner and fashion icon, Zendaya is a true superstar. Given her level of fame at the age of 24, some fans might assume she's always been comfortable living in the limelight. But in a new cover story for GQ, Zendaya opens up about overcoming her childhood shyness.

This journey didn't happen overnight, as the magazine notes Zendaya's parents sought counsel on how to address her shyness when she was a kid. As her star continued to rise, she found herself in more social situations.

"In this industry, I had to learn how to do small talk and stuff, because I guess I would kind of come off cold to people because I didn't really know how to start conversation," Zendaya tells the publication for its February issue. "I remember my stylist was like, 'You come off kind of cold. People think you're mean because you don't talk,' when really I just was too nervous."   

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But as time went on, The Greatest Showman alum became more comfortable with speaking out. "With my family and friends, I can go back and forth on a topic for no reason," she says. "I'm not actually winning anything here, but I like to go back and forth just to make sure that my point is heard, make sure my point has gotten across, which is similar, in many ways, to Marie."  

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Marie is the character Zendaya plays in Sam Levinson's Malcolm & Marie, a Netflix drama about a filmmaker (John David Washington) and his girlfriend (Zendaya) who give their relationship an honest look after they return home from a big night out and tensions build. The role is the latest one Zendaya has taken on in her evolving career. From seeing her star in Disney Channel's K.C. Undercover and Marvel's Spider-Man to watching her become the youngest woman to win an Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category for Euphoria, fans have continued to watch Zendaya dominate the film and TV landscape.

But that doesn't mean she still doesn't feel pressure, which she opens up about while recalling a card game of We're Not Really Strangers and being asked, "What's a random compliment that strangers give you that makes you feel good?"

"For me, it's when people say that their kids watched me," she says. "They just say, ‘We're really proud of you, girl. We're proud of you. Keep doing what you're doing. I see you.' I'm just like, ‘Aw, thank you!'

She continues, "I feel like everyone at that moment becomes my auntie, and I'm just like, ‘Oh, my God, I want to make you proud.' You know? But that stuff really means a lot to me. I think…that me wanting to control everything is just not wanting to f--k up. Not wanting to let anybody down."

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