5 ways Zendaya is using her voice to change the game in Hollywood

The actress is gearing up for her biggest year yet.

Marie Claire


Zendaya is currently covering the September issue of Marie Claire and serving up her best sixties-inspired looks in the fabulous fashion spread inside the magazine. She’s also opening up about her plans to win in Hollywood on her own terms and explaining why it’s so important for her to use her big platform to inspire big change.

Here are 5 things we learned from her fascinating interview:

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She knows the rules and she wants to change them. “As a black woman, as a light-skinned black woman, it’s important that I’m using my privilege, my platform, to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community,” she said at Beautycon in NYC. “I am Hollywood’s, I guess you could say, acceptable version of a black girl, and that needs to change. We’re vastly too beautiful and too interesting for me to be the only representation of that. What I’m saying—it’s about creating those opportunities. Sometimes you have to create those paths. And that’s with anything: Hollywood, art, whatever.”

She sees her fame as a responsibility. Unlike some celebrities who complain about the pressure of being a role model, Zendaya takes pride in setting an example for her fans. “I’m very aware that I don’t know everything, but I do try my best with the platform that I have, knowing how many people look to me. I try my best to inform myself and live my best life so that I can inspire my fans to live their best lives, be more educated, and learn for themselves. And I try to do it in a way that’s not telling people what to think but opening up their eyes to possibilities, ideas maybe they never thought about. I try to look at it as a responsibility more than anything.”

She’s out of her comfort zone. “It’s definitely been a process, especially because I’m coming from this very different world of Disney. Having been consistently on a television show, I felt stagnant. Not having that anymore, I am being seen as a real actress, doing what makes me feel pushed and motivated. I don’t necessarily think comfort is always the best place to live in. I’m kind of excited as I decide what projects I want to take on or if I want to produce. I’ve really found the power in just doing what makes me happy,” she said.

“There’s going to be a lot of different opinions and a lot of people telling you what you should do and what you shouldn’t do, but I had to home in on what Zendaya wanted and drive straight toward that. There’s something liberating about making decisions for yourself. A huge part of it was to take my time. I wanted to create who I was as a person outside of my Disney character. Fashion helped with that. My stylist, Law Roach, and I created a world beyond what I was known as through clothes. Picking the right projects helped too.”

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She really gives back. “I get fueled by the different people I’m able to positively affect. When people come up to you, and instead of saying, “I loved the last project you did,” they’re like, “I appreciate that you said this,” that makes me feel good. When I’m able to do great things in my career, and fortunately be financially blessed, and then give it away and watch the money actually do good shit, that is the purpose. That’s the reason why you do things,” she explained. “Every child, regardless of where they come from, deserves to have access to a great education. For me, I get to do my passion and what I enjoy, and that has become a forum to do much greater things.”

She’s willing to carve out her own lane. Zendaya explained that she constantly tries out for roles that aren’t necessarily intended for Black women. “One day I might want to have my own production company and create the material that I want to be in. Sometimes we have to create our own lane and our own opportunities when they’re not handed to us.”