Having patience for most teenagers is nearly impossible, but somehow, Yara Shahidi is overflowing with it. The 17-year-old has been acting since the age of ten— working nearly every year since— and grinding for her moment. Last May when it was announced she’d be getting her own show, that moment had finally arrived.

But let’s be honest, as Zoey on ABC’s hit show Black-ish, Shahidi has stood out as the outspoken and intelligent older daughter of the Johnsons. 

Shahidi, who’s mother is a model and father a photographer, has been honored by a ton of organizations and publications —including ESSENCE— but she’s still patiently and steadily working for more.

Grown-ish will truly be life imitating art,” the actress told ESSENCE about her spin-off show on Freeform. “Zoey is a little bit older than I am, so I am looking forward to helping unfold Zoey’s journey as she navigates friendships, relationships, and the intersection of politics, race, gender and sexual identities.”

The ever-woke Shahidi also realizes that, like the beloved (and very similar) Denise Huxtable, her character comes from a privileged background.

“Zoey comes from a world of access and financial affluence, but in college, and farther away from her familial support system, Zoey will be doing a lot of growing up and growing into herself.”

While Grown-ish is on the forefront of her mind, the self-proclaimed James Baldwin fanatic hasn’t forgotten about her college plans. In June she announced her choice to attend Harvard University, and that will happen… in due time. 

“I have chosen to defer beginning my academic life at Harvard —plus, I am only 17— to do my best in representing my generation, via Grown-ish, and do a little more ‘growing into’ myself, as well,” she said. 

“On the top of my agenda is to continue in the space of activism, particularly helping myself and my peers understand the power and importance of our voices and our votes, because mid-term elections are around the corner for many of us first time voters! I’ll also continue to champion the importance of access to education, as it has been the cornerstone and the foundation of my life, to date.”

We can’t wait to see her make it all happen. 


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