Zendaya Says She’s Thankful the “One At a Time” Narrative in Black Hollywood Is Shifting

She credits Issa Rae and Lena Waithe for "creating opportunities" for fellow Black creatives.

Zendaya, who, in September, became the youngest woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama, is thankful that she’s part of the changing tide in Hollywood. Appearing on the 50th anniversary digital cover for Essence, Zendaya channeled ’60s supermodel Donyale Luna and spoke on the comforting camaraderie she and her fellow Black artists have that is chipping away at outdated Hollywood norms.

“I’m honored to have that support, especially from my fellow young Black creatives,” she said, referring to the outpouring of love she received from people like her Euphoria costar Storm Reid and the cast of Insecure after her Emmys win. “Through this Emmys period, especially, I felt a strong sense of support within our community, which I’m really grateful for.”

The Malcolm & Marie actress said that she’s sensing a shift in Hollywood. Though it’s rooted in prior generations, artists like Issa Rae and Lena Waithe have created opportunities that have resulted in more of us being in these rooms, she told Essence.

“That’s such a special feeling, and I think it’s definitely changing the idea that there can only be “one at a time,” which is false,” Zendaya continued. “I love to see that genuine love and respect for each other’s work. I hope that we continue to expand that in all kinds of beautiful ways, because I think we’re on a really good path.”

However, this shift is not just happening in Hollywood. Zendaya is helping bridge the gap between the entertainment world, social justice, and politics; the focus of her Emmys acceptance speech, for instance, was on how younger generations need to stay hopeful and believe that change will come.

It just feels like a lot of the time, especially for young Black people, you’re birthed into a system that’s not built for you, Zendaya told Essence. It’s on us to take it from here and hopefully make it better. But it doesn’t really look like that right now—and the people in charge don’t like to listen to us.

She continued, “But it’s important to lean into hope and lean into the beautiful things that I see my peers doing, whether through their activism or through their art. It’s extremely inspiring for me to watch and be a part of. I wanted to speak to the power of that and let them know, what you’re fighting for does mean something, and you are supported and seen.”

Within the industry, Zendaya knows she has the power to support Black creatives in every corner, so she does just that. “It’s really important to us to support young Black designers and Black photographers, because the support usually just isn’t there for them,” she said. “A lot of smaller brands and designers were the ones that supported me before I was being dressed by bigger brands.”

Her activism, awareness, talent, humbleness, etc. (the list could truly go on for days), is what makes Zendaya a force to be reckoned with. She may have already made history with her Emmys win, but that award is just the beginning of a lifelong career of breaking boundaries and changing the world for the better.

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