If there’s anything that 2020 has proven, it’s that Zendaya is here to stay. And now, the youngest Primetime Emmy award winner in history is our latest cover star. In an interview penned by award-winning journalist Sylvia Obell (with photography by AB+DM and creative direction and fashion styling by Law Roach), Zendaya helps us with our ongoing celebrations for our 50th anniversary year by being as fabulous as ever — and of course, we’re just here to soak up all the gems.
Excerpts from the interview are below.
On championing for young people:
“It just feels like a lot of the time, especially for young Black people, you’re birthed into a system that’s not built for you. It’s on us to take it from here and hopefully make it better. But it doesn’t really look like that right now—and the people in charge don’t like to listen to us. But it’s important to lean into hope and lean into the beautiful things that I see my peers doing, whether through their activism or through their art. It’s extremely inspiring for me to watch and be a part of. I wanted to speak to the power of that and let them know, what you’re fighting for does mean something, and you are supported and seen.”
On Black Hollywood opening doors:
“…artists like Issa Rae and Lena Waithe have created opportunities that have resulted in more of us being in these rooms. That’s such a special feeling, and I think it’s definitely changing the idea that there can only be “one at a time,” which is false. I love to see that genuine love and respect for each other’s work. I hope that we continue to expand that in all kinds of beautiful ways, because I think we’re on a really good path.”
On becoming more involved behind the scenes:
“I love being able to create what I want to see made. I’m also really interested in cinematography. Maybe I’ll become a director, or a director of photography. I am just really taking in all that knowledge and learning as much as I can. I really love the art of actually making film.”
On celebrating the little things, after a particularly stressful year:
“Seeing Black women win, in any form, brings me joy. I was just looking at Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty fashion show, and I was like, “You better, girl! Bad-gal Riri is giving us what we need right now!” Then there are also small things—like a conversation with my grandmother, who I have to call after this because I keep forgetting. Hearing her voice is like food for the soul.”
The significance of Zendaya’s pivotal moment in Hollywood and ESSENCE’s ongoing 50th anniversary is one in the same — being an inspiration for Black women — and that’s why we couldn’t think of anyone better to drop gems and fashion bombs.
The November/December 2020 issue of ESSENCE is on newsstands November 24. Watch Zendaya’s ESSENCE Uncovered below: