Zendaya Says Goodbye to Her Disney Days: Inside Her Career Evolution

Actress reflects on her last episode of KC Undercover in an emotional tweet

By McKenna Aiello Feb 02, 2018 11:26 PMTags

Zendaya is bidding farewell to one of the most formative chapters of her life. 

The 21-year-old actress reflected on her final KC Undercover episode, tweeting Friday, "Tonight is the last episode of KC, and therefore my last episode on Disney channel...." Without a doubt an emotional moment for Zendaya, who landed her first on-screen role on Disney Channel eight years ago. 

She also posted on Instagram, "The end of an era. On to the next. Thank you for continuing to grow with me."

She's one of the few (if not the only) products of Disney to emerge as a bonafide movie star whilst still acting on the family-friendly cable network, no small feet given the career trajectories of her predecessors in the child acting world. Zendaya's time in the spotlight is subject, but not limited to, her status in the fashion and beauty industries and activism work, not to mention a budding music repertoire and all those music video cameos.  

Zendaya's Best Looks
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for EGPAF

At 14, Zendaya was cast opposite Bella Thorne on Disney Channel's Shake It Up. A rising star from the get-go, Zendaya's charm led to even more roles on Good Luck CharlieA.N.T. Farm as well as Disney TV movies Frenemies and Zapped

Zendaya's self-titled debut album dropped in 2013; her platinum single "Replay" became an instant hit and peaked at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. That same year, the 16-year-old signed on to compete alongside professional dancer Val Chmerkovskiy on season 16 of Dancing With the Stars. As the youngest person to participate in ABC's dance competition series, Zendaya and Val tangoed their way to second place behind Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough

ABC/Adam Taylor

Zendaya would ultimately return to the Disney Channel one year later on the one condition that she'd have more creative control behind the scenes. 

"The only way I was going to come back to the Disney Channel was if I was in a position of more power," she told Cosmopolitan magazine. "One thing that is really important to me is diversity on the channel. It's hard as a young person of a different ethnicity or background to look at the TV and not see anyone who looks like you. Representation is very important."

Mireya Acierto/GC Images

In addition to diversity, Zendaya has became an outspoken advocate for causes like Black Lives Matter, gender equality and body positivity. Her unisex fashion line, Daya by Zendaya, launched in 2016 and caters to both men and women up to size 22. 

"That just seems like a no-brainer to me," she shared with Elle. "Why would I alienate an entire group of people and make them feel like they can't access my clothes?"

Despite so many responsibilities, Zendaya has still managed to collaborate with music A-listers like Taylor SwiftBruno Mars and Beyoncé. She co-starred in Swift's "Bad Blood" music video, brought the heat for Mars' "Versace on the Floor" and was enlisted by Queen Bey herself for the Lemonade visual album. 

Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair

By summer 2017, Zendaya had officially kickstarted her film career with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Her first feature film role, Zendaya's Mary Jane-inspired portrayal of Michelle laid the groundwork for many more appearances in the Marvel super hero franchise. All of Zendaya's talents came together for The Greatest Showman, a blockbuster movie musical also starring Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman that landed in theaters last December. 

Even more recently, Zendaya's star power was realized on the cover of Vanity Fair's 2018 Hollywood Issue. There's no question she stood out amidst so many entertainment biz veterans.

"Finding out who you are is a difficult process and I think that everybody is going through it for their entire life," she explained to the publication. "For me, I think it's A, accepting that we are constantly growing and changing, and the person I was a year ago is not who I'm going to be in a year."

Something tells us every version of Zendaya will be better than the last.