Yara Shahidi refuses to let her generation be underestimated.
As the only Black actress under 21 starring in a TV show—Freeform’s Grown-ish, which begins filming season three this summer—she uses her platform as one of Hollywood’s in-demand actresses for the greater good.
Whether she’s speaking passionately about representation, James Baldwin or podcasts, one topic is always on her 19-year-old mind: pushing her peers to become politically engaged.
Thanks to her Eighteen x ’18 campaign, Shahidi is helping to register young people to vote in the 2020 presidential election as well as encouraging voters to become educated about not only about politicians but also policies affecting marginalized communities.
The actress, who spoke to ESSENCE for the magazine’s July/August issue, is hoping our next president will take an “inclusive” approach to tackling today’s most important challenges, from racial justice to labor equity to environmentalism.
But the issue that’s top of mind for this thought leader? “I’d have to say a restructuring of our education system would be a priority in multiple aspects,” she says. “I fervently believe that people should have access to higher education, if they choose that path, without financial restraint.”
As a young woman coming of age in the Me Too era, which is redefining how we view sexual harassment and bringing justice to women who’ve had to endure sexual misconduct in silence, Shahidi is “grateful for the collision of time and space that determined where I was placed in this world, because I definitely do gain the privileges of the freedom that people before me have advocated for,” she says. “It’s continuously inspiring because I don’t think I moved into this world thinking it was a perfect place.”