Zendaya Reveals Why She'll Never Be Ashamed of Her "Disney Kid" Past

Zendaya told Carey Mulligan about her humble beginnings on Disney's Shake It Up, reflecting on how it's impacted her career.

By Cydney Contreras Jan 26, 2021 10:35 PMTags
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Zendaya has achieved so much in her considerably young career, but she'll always be known as a "Disney kid," and that's just fine by her. 

Actresses like Miley Cyrus and Bella Thorne have notably bristled at the title, wanting to be known for other accomplishments, but the Emmy Award-winning Euphoria actress isn't trying to distance herself from that chapter of her life. Rather, the 24 year old feels that it's something to be proud of. 

In a discussion with Promising Young Woman actress Carey Mulligan for Variety's Actors on Actors series, Carey asked why it is that Zendaya still considers herself a "Disney kid," even after winning an Emmy. She remarked, "You surely can't think of yourself as a Disney kid now."

But, as Zendaya explained, "The thing is, I am. And to a degree, I am grateful for that. That's where I started, and I learned so much from that experience."

"It's just kind of been this slow progression, and I am happy that it's all been to prove it to myself and not to anybody else, you know?" she continued. "I embrace it a little bit. It's part of my heritage to a degree."

Zendaya's Best Looks

Not that Zendaya hasn't been worried about the perceived limitations it could place on her career. She shared her shock over being cast in Euphoria, noting that she started out as a poppy teen in Disney Channel's Shake It Up, but the gritty show's director Sam Levinson still thought she could play an angsty Rue. 

As Zendaya put it, "He must have seen something in me." 

Sam's confidence in her acting abilities made her more willing to take a risk on starring in Euphoria, something that she was apprehensive about because of her start on Disney. "I've always felt that I could bring things to the table: that I could be creative and free to try things, and put out bad ideas," she explained. "Because of the Disney kid thing, I get scared of that kind of thing."

Carey related to Zendaya in feeling like appearances have affected the roles she's taken on. 

Most recently, the actress was unjustly criticized for her appearance in Promising Young Woman, with a Variety critic remarking that she wore "pickup-bait gear like bad drag." To add further insult to injury, the critic wrote that Margot Robbie, a producer for the movie, would've been a better pick for the character, which he described as a "many-layered apparent femme fatale."

Eddy Chen/HBO

Variety later apologized, but Carey said she was concerned about the impact comments like that can have on women as a whole. 

"But it stuck with me, because I think it's these kind of every day moments that add up—that mean that we start to edit the way that women appear on screen, and we want them to look a certain way. We want to airbrush them, and we want to make them look perfect. Or we want to edit the way that they work, the way they move, and the way that they think and behave," she explained. "And I think we need to see real women portrayed on screen and in all of their complexity."