Rising Hollywood star Yara Shahidi’s talent’s and grace continue to amaze.
During the ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood 2016 awards gala, which aired tonight on OWN, Shahidi was honored alongside fellow actresses Issa Rae, Janelle Monae and Aja Naomi King for her accomplishments.
Shahidi delivered a powerful and moving acceptance speech on the beauties and struggles of young womanhood and coming of age in today’s world.
“See, as a teenager, I’m very unsure of myself….much of the time,” the Black-ish star told the crowd. “Not certain if I’m saying the right things, if I’m acting the right way….If I’m even supposed to be here.”
The young actress, who has already accomplished so much in Hollywood at the tender age of 17, shared the vulnerability of her own journey thus far and what’s she’s learned along the way.
“I’m constantly moving into new and unfamiliar territory…. from set, to events, to young womanhood and to stages like this and it can all be so overwhelming,” she added. “What am I doing in these beautiful designer clothes while the world is reeling backwards, people are being deported, and discrimination is rearing its ugly head? What am I doing to contribute to the world around me?”
Shahidi remains woke and gracious beyond her years and continues to praise the women in Hollywood who have come before her.
“I just want to take a moment to appreciate the fact that I’m surrounded by all of this magic right now,” opened Shahidi when accepting the Generation Next Award. “Specifically, Black girl magic! I’d like to use this opportunity to express my appreciation for the women in this room and the work you all are dedicated and committed to creating.”
Shahidi, who brought along her parents Keri and Afshin Shahidi, her two brothers and aunts to share in the joy of the evening.
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“I’m fortunate because you all have taught me by example what the role of the artist is: to disrupt, to remold, to create,” she said. “To disrupt this faulty system, to remold the foundation of this country into one in which all are given equal opportunities and to create a space in which our underlying humanity is recognized and our differences are celebrated. I’m honored to be on a show like Blackish, which does just this.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Shahidi concluded her poignant speech with a powerful quote to remember.
“In the words of James Baldwin, ‘Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them,’” she said. “I’m honored to be imitating you.”
Watch the rest of Shahidi’s beautiful and heartwarming speech above.