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‘Black-ish’ Star Yara Shahidi Is Using #BlackGirlMagic To Shatter The Illusion Of The Hollywood Starlet

At seventeen years old, if you’re already Beyoncé-approved and First Lady Michelle Obama has written your college recommendation letters, we think you’re pretty much winning at this whole life thing.

When you think about it, Yara Shahidi is already in a league of her own. Each week she sizzles as the brilliantly aloof daddy’s girl Zoey Johnson on ABC’s Black-ish. When she’s not acting, Shahidi’s writing think pieces for Teen Vogue, speaking out against racial oppression and the Muslim ban, slaying red carpets, or just hanging with her mama.

When we consider Hollywood’s young starlets, they are often young white actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone, who quickly propel to the top of the entertainment industry garnering awards and opportunities that so many Black actresses and actors are shut out of. This is not to say that we’ve never had our own starlets before. Brandy helped redefine what it mean to be a Black girl in the ’90s with her chart -topping albums and her roles on Moesha and in ABC’s Cinderella. Likewise, actresses like Issa Rae and Aja Naomi King are also currently killing it on the big and small screens. However, Shahidi has been holding it down for Black teens; particularly because she hasn’t had to cross over as a singer or dancer like other young starlets of color (i.e., Zendaya, Selena Gomez).

Shahidi stands apart because she’s in her own lane going at her own pace. While giving her all on Black-ish, she’s also taking the time to consider her next move. She’s decided to postpone college for another year in order to truly determine what she wants to do. She seems to have found that rare delicate balance between living in the spotlight and living for herself. That’s no small feet in our world of rapid social media consumption and instant gratification.

Whatever roles she decides to take on post-Black-ish, we hope that Shahidi can garner the same respect and patience that has been given to her white contemporaries and predecessors. Whether she chooses to go to school or take on another project, she has forever helped redefine and pave the way for brown girls who want to act, sing, or dance as much as they simply want to live their lives.