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.