Starting out as a Disney child star, teen recording artist, and Tumblr style inspo in the late 2010s, the actress has become an Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated starlet and high-fashion icon through consistent hard work and skill. She now has two Emmy awards for Best Actress in a Drama Series, is a fixture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has one Oscar-nominated film under her belt and is busy shooting its sequel. And at just 26, this is surely only the beginning.
LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 05: Zendaya, jewellery detail, attends a photocall for “Spiderman: No Way Home” at The Old Sessions House on December 05, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Issa Rae likely put it best when she asked Zendaya directly, “When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, how hard do you have to fight the urge to say ‘wow…these other b*tches aren’t even close’?” A valid question we’re still searching for the answer to, as the actress and producer never ceases to amaze and constantly raises the bar with both her work and her style!
Take a look at the roles that made Zendaya an undeniable superstar.
Shake it Up!, 2010-2013
Starring as Rocky Blue on the hit Disney Channel comedy, the young starlet showed off the acting prowess that would turn her into Hollywood’s most coveted It-Girl (and the dance moves that made her a kids’ music star from age 14-17). The show followed two girls with big dreams of becoming professional dancers that landed their way onto a local Soul-Train-style dance show and juggle their passion and their school and home lives.
K.C. Undercover, 2015-2018
Headlining a second show on Disney Channel before even turning 18, Zendaya starred as a math whiz who gets whisked into the world of governmental espionage when she stumbles across her parents’ secret life as international spies. Recruited by her father (played by Kadeem Hardison) K.C. and her family save the nation by dinnertime every episode, with their friends and neighbors being none the wiser.
Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017
Zendaya stamped herself as a bonafide star when she joined the MCU as Peter Parker’s best friend-turned object of affection, MJ Watson. Zendaya’s fresh take on the character found her as a dry-witted and observant tomboy, completely unconcerned with impressing her peers – and fans loved it across this film and its two additional sequels: Spider-Man: Far From Home and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
The Greatest Showman, 2017
Zendaya heightened her profile in the mainstream even more with her role in the wildly popular musical, The Greatest Showman, chronicling the turn of the century formation of the modern concept of the circus by P.T. Barnum. Zendaya starred as pink-haired acrobat and trapeze artist Anne Wheeler, younger sister to Yahya Abdul-Mateen, II and love interest to Zack Efron. Talk about star power!
Malcolm & Marie, 2021
Zendaya made waves with her most adult role yet in Malcolm & Marie, the initially mysterious pandemic project between herself, her Euphoria collaborator Sam Levinson, and John David Washington. Stepping into the role of co-producer on a remote secluded set and with a minimal crew in Joshua Tree, CA, she portrayed a recovering drug addict having a relationship-shifting argument with her boyfriend on one of the biggest nights of his career.
The sci-fi fantasy flick that was once thought unadaptable to screen pushed Zendaya into her first Oscar-nominated project. On a distant planet in the even more distant future, the starlet starred as Chani, a mysterious woman that the story’s main character often sees in his dreams.
Euphoria, 2019 – Present
The role that made her a 2x Best Actress Emmy-winner! If you live under a rock, this HBO hit sees Zendaya as teenage pill-addict Rue Bennett, clashing with her family and discovering who she is through intense addiction, depression, and grief, while still attending the 11th grade. With high drama and high tension, the show had viewers hooked ever since its June 2019 premiere.