Yara Shahidi is easily everyone’s favorite brilliant, beautiful, and hilarious young Black starlet. From speaking out as a an activist to being accepted to Harvard and scoring a leading role in the Black-ish spin-off Grown-ish, making the April cover of Essence is a sign that her future is just getting brighter.
The magazine’s writers caught up with the teenager who’s been making headlines nationwide, and gave us a glimpse into her life now and what she’s planning for the future.
She appears on the cover embellished with gold jewelry, wearing a gorgeous summer-white dress. In the accompanying video, she’s seen frolicking near a need-to-have pool with Moroccan-style influences all around, giving us all the spring and summer vibes we need ASAP.
In the interview, 18-year-old Shahidi opened up about a few things, beginning with what it’s like to live through her television character, Zoey Johnson.
“Moving into Grown-ish, I feel like Yara and Zoey have many more similarities than they had in Black-ish, just because you see her more unsure of herself and more awkward,” she said.
“There are those moments in which I was able to relate to her more on a personal level because she isn’t the confident, super fabulous person all the time,” she continued. “Then, of course, there are certain things that Zoey does that Yara has never considered doing. And so there are certain moments in which Zoey does a lot of growing up for me and a lot of experimentation for me.”
Yara also spoke candidly about the pitfalls of social media and celebrity:
“Quite honestly, I’m the kind of person to get my feelings hurt over something somebody said on Twitter,” the actress revealed. “There are those moments when I can go through 10 million amazing comments that are super supportive, and one person may say something and I’ll stew over it. That’s something that I’ve actively had to work on.”
On what it’s like balancing a growing career and its consequent visibility with her commitment to social work and activism:
“I’ve always struggled with Hollywood feeling trivial,” said Yara. “Red carpets aren’t worth it. As fun as it is to get dressed up, it is surreal to be sitting at the Teen Choice Awards while [something like] Charlottesville is happening.”
And what’s up next now that she’s finally legal?
“Easy,” she said. “Register to vote. It’s actually an ongoing joke [that] if I ever had a fake ID, it’d be to go vote. So now I actually get to do what I’ve been talking about for so long,” she said.
“Trevor actually said that his birthday present to me would be paying for my tattoo,” Yara added, “which is kind of scary because now it means that I’ve committed to getting a tattoo. It’s going to say “so it goes,” it’s a Vonnegut reference and I’ve been thinking about it for years. So I’m really excited.”