From fashion to music to acting Zendaya is leading the chic charge for young black girls everywhere
Photographer | Bradford Rogne
Creative Direction | AllanTroy
Contributing Fashion Editor | Law Roach
Hair | Kim Kimble
Makeup | Allan Avendaño
Article | Ricky Bennick
Top + Skirt |
Shoes | Stuart Weitzman
Ricky: Well, you know, like when nobody is looking maybe you’ll down a carton of ice cream…I don’t know – secret indulgences!
Zendaya: Well that’s, to me, nothing to be ashamed of. Like I personally will eat ice cream all day every day in front of everyone’s face and have no shame. That’s just like a known fact. All my weird, lazy tendencies I’m pretty public about. All my fans know that I’m a dork.
Ricky: Is there anyone who you would absolutely die to work with – producer, director, another actor, musician?
Zendaya: Of course! Like I’ve said multiple times, if Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp and/or Leonardo DiCaprio every need a daughter in a scene, I will take one line! I can say hi and then leave and be completely satisfied with life.
Ricky: Take a hi and do a little hair-flip.
Zendaya: You know what I’m saying? Hi and hair flip and call it a day.
Ricky: You play K.C. Cooper on the Disney Channel’s K.C. Undercover. K.C. is really good at math. Do you and K.C. share this particular gift in common?
Zendaya: Aha! Well let’s just say that when I was in high school, I feel like I was good at math. I did well, but once the test was over, I mean I couldn’t tell you what the heck it was about. I feel like you just get to that point where you learn it, and then it just disappears! Which is the opposite of song lyrics, for example, you can bring up of song from the nineties and still remember every single lyric. It’s strange, but I’m sure there are a lot of teenagers who can identify with that.
Ricky: And adults, too! K.C. Undercover is back this February. Anything special you can tell us about what’s in store?
Zendaya: What’s really cool about this year is that I’ve stepped into the producer role. Now I can be even more hands-on. Also, I think every character is maturing and coming into their own, and the show is taking more form. It’s exciting to be in on everything and have so much of a voice in the making of the show.
Ricky: What do you enjoy most about producing?
Zendaya: It’s really cool to be a producer as well as an actor because you can make decisions from both sides. A lot of people make decisions as producers without the thoughts of the actor in mind. Or vice-versa. Actors make decisions without the thoughts of the producers and network in mind. So I like bridging the gap between actors and producers.
Ricky: So actors can come to you because you’ve been there and they know you understand.
Zendaya: Mmhmm. And also! I can be the voice of cool things. Because I’m the youngest producer on the show, so I’m kind of the voice of cool.
Ricky: K.C. is a spy. What is the biggest difficulty she’s ever had to face on the job?
Zendaya: So she works for the government, or The Organization, as we call it on the show. She does craziness every single day. She is attacking bad guys and all this craziness, but I think her biggest challenge is finding the balance between living life and being a teenager without missing any of it. That’s cool, because I think a lot of young people can relate. Everybody has something that they want to do that they have to make sacrifices for, because – hey you have soccer practice today, or hey you made a commitment to be on a team. So it’s like that but kind of at an over-the-top level.
Ricky: You rock really amazing, sometimes daring looks on the red carpet You seem to have fun and take risks with what you wear. Where does your love of fashion come from?
Zendaya: I’ve always been into fashion. When I was younger, I would read a lot of fashion magazines, and kind of started to create my look for less. I had two teachers as parents, so we were ballin’ on a budget. I would try to make my own little jackets and try to embellish them myself. Cut old T-shirts, do the whole thing, be my own designer. I was tying to figure it out as a young twelve year old. I did finally hit a point when I got a little older where I just started to dress for myself. And that’s the best place to be.
Ricky: Could you see yourself having your own fashion line some day?
Zendaya: Of course! I have a shoe line that I’ve been working on coming out called Daya. It’s definitely for every woman. There’s that price point where it’s cheap enough for anyone to buy but not cheap shoes. I don’t want a woman to feel like she’s rocking the look for less. I want her to feel like she’s rocking the look.
Ricky: Any favorite designers?
Zendaya: I’m one of those people that likes a little bit of everything. So I don’t like to be biased in any way. I love Vivienne Westwood, though. I love that she marches to the beat of her own drum. I’ve been thankful to have designers who have reached out to me like Fausto Puglisi and Christian Siriano – these are just great people who not only are super talented people at what they do but also really cool people that I’ve been able to get to know and build relationships with.
Ricky: Everything that you do in your career – whether it’s rocking a look on a red carpet or acting, singing, or hosting – all of it requires so much confidence. Where do you get your confidence from?
Zendaya: I think I get my confidence mostly from the women in my life. I have a lot of very strong women in my life that have either faced or dealt with certain struggles specifically so that I didn’t have to. My mom right now is going through her, what I call butterfly metamorphosis. Being a teacher and a mom and now getting back to herself and do things for herself again – seeing her go through that transformation and really finding her own beauty – which I think that can happen at any age – but just seeing that happen to her is really cool. My oldest sister has been a great role model. She’s taught me little things like how to wrap my hair at night, how to keep my bathroom clean, how to make sure that my perfume is layered the right way. Teaching me not only that woman stuff – whatever you call it – but also teaching what it means to be a good person. My sister is one of those people that is like my mom – very giving, wants to make sure everyone else is ok and thinks of other people before herself. I learned my confidence them.
Suit | House of CB
Shoes | Christian Louboutin
Ricky: What is your favorite place in the world that you’ve ever been to and why?
Zandaya: My favorite place in the world that I’ve ever been to is definitely South Africa. That was an amazing trip. It’s so important I think for every young black person to travel to Africa at some point. There’s a lot of history there that I feel we need to be connected to and learn about. I was there with UNAIDS, and we did a lot of cool work. It was a very inspiring trip.
Ricky: How was your experience working with UNAIDS, and what sort of work did you do?
Zendaya: While we were out there, our main initiative was to launch ProTest HIV, which is a new campaign that’s geared toward young people. It was myself, Nico and Vinz. UNAIDS wanted to bring out young people to talk to fellow young people about about AIDS, getting tested and make it an open dialogue and not something that’s so awkward or taboo to talk about. I met a lot of families that were effected by HIV/AIDS and just kind of worked on understanding the epidemic. Over all, the numbers are going down, but they’re actually going up in young people.
Ricky: What did you learn about HIV/AIDS while in South Africa that most surprised you?
Zendaya: A lot, really. Just the amount of people who are affected. In America, we like to forget that it exists. We’d like to think it’s something distant, but it’s very close, and it’s closer than we think. Like I said, it effects young people more than it affects anyone else right now. We want young people to be the most aware, and have them have the lowest numbers. It’s all about educating people.
Ricky:You’ve been very outspoken about diversity in Hollywood, which is great. And necessary. It really takes young voices like yours to keep the conversation going. Even though we’ve made a lot of progress, there are a lot of people who are who are unwilling to talk about it. How close do you think we are to completely solving the problem of racism in the entertainment industry?
Zendaya: I can’t tell you. I don’t know the future. I will tell you there is a lot of work to be done. That’s just the truth of the matter. I’m not sure who posted it, but there was this post about the total number of lines read by a black person in movies in 2015. It was literally the shortest video you will ever see – it’s crazy. I think it’s a problem. As a young African American person, it is so important to be able to see yourself in someone in media. It’s so important to have that representation. It’s necessary. We’ve made some great strides, especially in TV. The number one shows we have are Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, with very strong black female leads that are killing primetime television – that’s Shonda Land, you know. It’s progress, but it will take time. It’s something still worth talking about, because people don’t really think about it. I think that’s why some people don’t understand why some things are as important to us as African American people – why we take a stance on certain issues.
Ricky: When you were a kid, was there anybody from the African American community whom you looked up to? Someone who could represent you in media?
Zendaya: Absolutely. I think it’s a known fact, but Beyonce was that for me when I was younger. Beyonce is someone I have always been obsessed with.
Ricky: Ever gotten to hang out with her?
Zendaya: Not really. I’m still waiting for that magical moment.
Ricky: Haha! You and everyone else.
Zendaya: Right? I love her because she’s in control of her career and what she’s created. You can definitely attribute her success to her hard work. You can tell that she works for what she has, and I think it’s really cool.
Ricky: You said earlier that it’s important for members of the African American community to connect with their roots. What kind of impact do you think having that connection with a place of origin would have on the African American community as a whole?
Zendaya: I think it would bring a lot of pride. I think it has done that already a little bit. I notice on social media little hash-tags, like when we have #BlackOutDay or #MelaninMonday or #BlackGirlmagic – however small a hash-tag may be, they mean a lot and are beautiful to see. When you scroll through and see people embracing their natural curls or their skin and being confident in it and feeling that it’s beautiful – that is something that’s really cool to see. Especially on social media, which is usually very negative. And all of that starts with having pride in who you are.
Ricky: Ain’t that the truth. Before we wrap this up, are there any future projects of yours that you would like to talk about?
Zendaya: Music is coming out very soon. I say that a lot, but it really is.
Ricky: When does your new music drop?
Zendaya: Within the next few months. I’ll just say that.
Ricky: Who are your musical influences?
Zendaya: I have old school influences, but I’m definitely into new old school – so like nineties – if I were to say that to my dad, he’d be like, “What the heck?! That ain’t old school.” But I do love listening to Old school Usher, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway. It’s a little bit of everything.
Ricky: We can’t wait to hear!