Jen Juneau
January 20, 2016 7:52 am

I personally can’t prevent myself from smiling, or my eyes from morphing into heart shapes, when I hear a woman speak out about important causes – specifically when it’s a young woman who demands a space she rightfully deserves to inhabit, and has no problem telling the world exactly why. These young women have included the likes of Emma Watson, Malala Yousafzai, and Rowan Blanchard.

Another of these young women is 17-year-old Amandla Stenberg, whose rise in worship-worthiness is only partly attributed to her (admittedly incredible) acting talent. The rest of my admiration for this amazing girl who got her start in the first Hunger Games film comes from her unwillingness to let anyone and anything tell her what she is supposed to believe or how she is supposed to act in terms of her race, gender, sexuality, and more. In fact, she believes so much in the power of harnessing and being unapologetic for one’s self that she has quickly become known just as much for her inspiring, intelligent words about solidarity and human rights as she is for her acting talent.

Here are the reasons we love Amandla Stenberg so much that we couldn’t help but write about her for this week’s #WCW.

Her comments about race are on point

The number of quotes I could put here to illustrate why Amandla is such a powerful voice in speaking out about institutional racism is uncountable. At 17 years old, she has already cemented herself a place in a trailblazing group of women (including ones she admires greatly, like FKA Twigs, Ava DuVernay, and Willow Smith) fighting to make a difference in how black women, and black culture, are treated.

“Whenever Black women have a point, they’re characterized as Angry Black Women, and therefore the thing they’re talking about is no longer of importance because they have to deal with them being overly emotional or something,” Amandla told ESSENCE in an interview this past September. “I recognize that people who respond negatively to what I have to say aren’t at a place yet where they are able to learn. And I know that that’s not personal. That’s unfortunately a product of society as a whole. And it’s exactly what I’m trying to fight.”

Amandla is also the cover star for the February issue of Teen Vogue, in which she discusses with Solange Knowles (and in a video made exclusively for the magazine) why being black is beautiful and powerful.

So are her comments on sexuality

Recently, Amandla came out as bisexual on Teen Vogue’s Snapchat. This was hugely important, because she used it as an opportunity to speak out about sexuality and how misunderstood bisexuality is.

“It’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and mold yourself into shapes you just shouldn’t be in,” Amandla said. “As someone who identifies as a black, bisexual woman I’ve been through it, and it hurts, and it’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable.”

She also isn’t shy about letting people know exactly where there beliefs about sexuality are not only misguided, but straight-up wrong and ignorant.

And representation in general because apparently this girl is everything

Amandla’s penchant for speaking out about misrepresentation in society and mainstream media isn’t limited to race and sexuality – she has discussed gender inequality as well, even recently commenting on the problem with how we tend to raise girls to shy away from STEM careers.

“We teach [girls] that they are not capable or that they won’t be good at it, and therefore they’re kind of deterred from pursuing interest in those fields,” she told the Huffington Post.

She also makes sure to be inclusive with her comments, continually calling for more support and representation for people who generally don’t fit the “ideal” standard of beauty and status. Her message seems to be, “Why keep saying we all matter if our actions don’t reflect our words?”

She is part of the next generation of women speaking up

Amandla is among a group of young women who are up and coming in terms of helping to redefine what it means to be a meaningful, respected part of society. Along with her friend Rowan Blanchard, she was recently named Feminist Celeb of the Year by the Ms. Foundation for Women.

She’s a comic-book author

Oh, and we can go ahead and add “comic-book author” to Amandla’s endless list of positive attributes. Niobe: She is Life chronicles the adventures of the half-elf, half-human Niobe Ayutami, a black female protagonist with more than a healthy dose of badassery up her sleeve.

Issue 2 drops on Jan. 27 – just far enough away to read and re-read the first issue.

She’s an advocate for ending children’s hunger

Between advocating for equality, continually lifting others up, being a generally beautiful human being, and acting, Amandla still finds time to advocate for other causes. One she believes in greatly? Bringing an end to children’s hunger. She has been an advocate for the No Kid Hungry campaign since she was 13, and continues to spread the message to help feed children across the United States.

Amandla isn’t even a legal adult yet, but if she is any indication of the direction the future leaders of our society are heading, we are in good hands. So thank you, Amandla, for your intelligence and leadership among not only young women, but for all of us. Thank you for encouraging all of us to listen, and to create real, tangible change beyond just our words. This world is infinitely better because you’re in it.

(Image via Lionsgate)

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