You can’t dismiss the power of seeing a young Black woman on TV—whether she’s the glue that holds her family together or using her supernatural powers to help friends see into the future. “Sixteen-year-old Black girls who were considered stars by the networks were virtually nonexistent,” says Moesha co-creator Ralph Farquhar of the period when he conceptualized the now-iconic series.
After TV executives met with “fearless” lead Brandy Norwood, who was 16 and already blowing everyone away on the music charts, “it was a no-brainer,” he recalls. Actresses who have followed in Norwood’s footsteps all share an understanding—it’s no easy feat carrying a show when you’re still learning the depths of your talent.
Raven-Symoné was 3-years-old when she stepped into the limelight, while Keke Palmer and Kyla Pratt were both teens. Still, these actresses influenced young Black women to be exactly who they are when the cameras aren’t rolling. As each actress’s star continues to rise, there’s much to be said about the impact they made at such an early age. It’s no wonder they’re all still killing it on platforms big and small.
Many young women were inspired to embrace technology in 2015, when then 18-year-old Zendaya starred as tech wizard and kick-ass spy K.C. Cooper in K.C. Undercover. Now the actress is juggling projects we’re excited about, including HBO’s Euphoria, released in June, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, in theaters now.
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Fifteen-year-old Keke Palmer starred in Nickelodeon’s True Jackson, VP as a young fashion mogul calling the shots, from 2008 to 2011. The now 25-year-old actress and social media mainstay is currently set to appear in Hustlers, a highly anticipated film led by Jennifer Lopez, due out in September.
We’ve known Raven-Symoné since she began keeping the Huxtable family in line on The Cosby Show. When she was a teen in 2002, the actress appeared in That’s So Raven, in which her fictional character harnessed psychic powers that allowed her to see into her friends’ future. She’s now starring in the spin-off, Raven’s Home.
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At a mere 15-years-old, Kyla Pratt starred opposite Flex Alexander as Breanna Barnes, the daughter of a sportscaster who’s forced to become a full-time dad in One on One. Now a mother of two, Pratt can be seen in the BET Star Cinema film Back to the Goode Life, available on streaming media.
When Yara Shahidi first came into our homes thanks to Black-ish, she was only 14 years old. The now 19-year-old took her beloved character Zoey to a spin-off, Grown-ish, where she’s navigating college with that same dusting of Black Girl Magic that made us fall in love with her in the first place.
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Tia and Tamera Mowry
Playing twins separated at birth, real-life sibs Tia and Tamera Mowry were complete #sistergoals on Sister, Sister, which ran from 1994 to 1999, starting when they were just 15. Now Tia stars in Netflix’s series Family Reunion while her sister appears on the Emmy Award-winning talk show The Real.
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