Yara Shahidi on Hollwood activism and rallying the youth vote for the 2018 midterms

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 23: Yara Shahidi attends the Chanel Haute Couture Spring Summer 2018 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 23, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for Chanel) thegrio.com
Yara Shahidi attends the Chanel Haute Couture Spring Summer 2018 show as part of Paris Fashion Week. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for Chanel)

Black-ish star Yara Shahidi knows her career in Hollywood has created a large platform and she’s determined to use it for more than just accumulating likes and followers on social media.

So when she turned 18 earlier this month, Shahidi celebrated with a voter registration party in Los Angeles tied to her new philanthropic initiative Eighteenx18. The program is designed to teenagers to register to vote so they can make their voices and interests heard in the 2018 midterm elections.

But Shahidi admitted in an interview with NET-A-PORTER’s digital magazine, PorterEdit, that it can sometimes be strange being an activist in Hollywood.

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She recalled how she attended the Teen Choice Awards when the Charlottesville tragedy was still fresh and how it had been such a strange dichotomy.

“[It’s like] the universe plans award shows to line up [with] major societal crises. So you are always being pushed up against this oxymoron of ‘the world is falling apart,’ but [also] ‘I’m here and my fit looks great,'” she said.

But even though it may feel odd, Shahidi doesn’t subscribe to the idea that actors and other entertainers shouldn’t speak out on social issues or share their political opinions.

“There is so much fear of actors being political, like that’s not our place, even though I feel that media has always been so inherently political. In the photos that you see of Martin Luther King Jr., even at the March on Washington, there’s Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte and James Baldwin, and all of these other creatives,” she said.

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Shahidi, who will reportedly start at Harvard University in the fall to double major in sociology and African-American studies, believes young people have a chance to make real change in society.

“I don’t think that I would look forward to voting as much if there hadn’t been so much duress happening. It has made life less self-centric, it’s more about community now,” she said.

As for how she’s able to be socially active and hit the red carpets at the same time, Shahidi toldPorterEdit that she makes conscious fashion choices.

“[Fashion] it is so important. It’s why I wear a ton of political T-shirts because I get to wear things that state my political opinions. Fashion is associated with an ideology. You could wear a beret, but when you tilt it to the side, you go from Parisian to Black Panther,” she said.

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As for what’s next, the blossoming actress, activist, and scholar is reportedly in talks to star in the movie based upon best-selling young adult novel, “The Sun Is Also A Star” by Nicola Yoon. The title was a 2016 National Book Award Finalist.

The story centers around the main character, Natasha, a young woman in New York City who falls in love just as her family is weeks away from being deported to Jamaica. To say that the relevancy to our current political climate is dead-on would be an understatement. 

At just eighteen years old, it’s obvious Yara Shahidi is going places, and we’re loving her example of #blackexcellence.