Yara Shahidi was only nine when she made her big-screen debut in Eddy Murphy’s Imagine That and 14 when she got her breakout role–Zoey Johnson on ABC’s critical and popular hit Blackish. Zoey is the popular and social activist child of characters played by Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, and in real life, Yara, a first generation American from Minnesota, is not all that different.
An outspoken advocate for diversity in Hollywood and the importance of education for girls, Shahidi has used her voice for good. She formed Yara’s Club, a partnership with The Young Women’s Leadership School that brings high school students together to discuss social issues and how to take action and has worked on Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn education initiative (the former first lady wrote her a college letter of recommendation).
That letter of recommendation paid off: Shahidi, who is now 17, is recently committed to a spot at Harvard University, where she plans to double major in sociology and African-Americans study. Her extra-curricular activity? A new show, Grown-ish. The spinoff series will air on Freeform early next year.
The actress and activist, who was recently selected for Forbes 30 Under 30 Hollywood, answered a handful of questions about her life and career.
Name: Yara Shahidi
Date Of Birth: February 10, 2000
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Residence: Los Angeles, California
What living person is your dream mentor?
Who is your favorite superhero?
Professor X, whose character served as an analogy to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. within the Marvel Universe
What is the worst advice you have ever received?
Be less direct.
What is your motto?
Remain dharma (purpose), driven and undefined.
What is the biggest myth about millennials?
Millennials are non-participatory in influencing socio-political shifts.
How many hours per week do you work?
What is your favorite vacation spot?
Wherever my family, literature and music are.
What is your greatest achievement?
Shifting the perception of what is deemed possible within my generation of actors and entertainers as it pertains to societal contribution.
What is your favorite binge watch?
I don’t watch much TV, but I do binge listen to podcasts such as “Still Processing” by the New York Times.
What are your go-to summits or conferences?
What are your favorite music festivals?
Do you consider being under 30 an advantage in your chosen career?
Yes. Being a part of a generation in which societal contribution and action are expected, I’ve had the great fortune of inter-generational support and access to the entrepreneurial tools and information needed to exponentially grow my own philanthropic platform, impacting my global community for the better.
What was your first job?
Lead in the 2009 feature film Imagine That opposite Eddie Murphy