Zendaya, the rising 20-year-old Disney Channel star and actress in the forthcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming movie, covers Vogue this July. And rather than get an older man to interview her, as Vogue so often loves to do, the magazine actually got a woman to write the profile, FINALLY.
Whereas in the past young actresses and models like Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, and Margo Robbie among many others, have had to endure the sort of profile-writing that treats them like fuckable faeries (“As I slip an apron over her mane of chocolate-brown hair, for which Pantene has paid her millions”) or creatures who they’re surprised to learn are human “It comes as a surprise, then...to discover that she’s not remotely like the manipulative sex kittens she’s been so eerily good at portraying on the screen”) Zendaya’s profile is sobering.
Written by Abby Aguirre, the piece hones in on how Zendaya has transitioned out of Disneyhood even though, which I was surprised to learn, she actually still shoots her show K.C. Undercover. It was a show to which she apparently made a lot of changes when she first signed on at 16:
“I got in a room with the heads of Disney Channel,” Zendaya says, recounting a meeting that took place four years ago, when she was sixteen. By this time she had already completed her first Disney show, Shake It Up, in which she costarred as an aspiring dancer alongside Bella Thorne. For her to sign on to K.C. Undercover, she decided, Disney would need to meet demands. First they would need to make her a producer. Next she objected to the show’s title, which at the time was Super Awesome Katy. “I was like, ‘The title is whack. That’s gonna change.’ ” She then rejected her character’s name (“Do I look like a Katy to you?”) and insisted that the show feature a family of color.
Zendaya also talks about growing up in Oakland, which may have inspired her to develop a project about Angela Davis in the future. She recounts growing up in her father’s childhood home that once held Black Panther Meetings in the basement and dealing with casting calls as a biracial teenager:
Ajamu didn’t buy into the stage-parent culture, and Zendaya didn’t care about money or feel pressure to accept roles she didn’t respect. “We weren’t used to dealing with people in a Hollywood way,” she says. “There’s just a certain layer of fake bullshit.” Navigating issues of race and casting could be trickier, says Stoermer, who is white. She cites an uproar that erupted in 2014, when Zendaya signed on to star in a biopic about Aaliyah and a vocal contingent took the position that she wasn’t “black enough” to play the R&B singer. (Zendaya pulled out of the project, though she says she did so over concerns about its production value.) “It’s a hard thing in Hollywood when you’re mixed,” Stoermer says. “You’re not white enough to be white, and you’re not black enough to be black.”
It’s interesting that Zendaya is covering Vogue when she seems exactly like the sort of star their little activist sister publication Teen Vogue would put on a cover. In recent months Teen Vogue has undergone a revamp into becoming a somewhat politically outspoken (but still very carefully on-trend) publication compared to Vogue, and its influence has already seeped into adult Condé Nast publication Allure where many Teen Vogue editors also work. Zendaya might be an indication that Vogue is trying to absorb the teen edition’s influence to gain more readers.