Blackish Star. Activist. Producer Yara Shahidi is fire!
Life after hit ABC sitcom Black-ish, which automatically made Yara one of the most sought after young actresses in Hollywood is full of exciting milestones for activist and actress.
At 21 she boasts of laudable list of accomplishments defying her age. A college senior in final year at Harvard University, launching her 7th Sun Productions, with her mother last year, she spills to Marie Claire about that initiative aimed at pushing a more diverse representation in front of and behind the camera and introducing fresh voices into the Hollywood mix.
“Oftentimes with studio systems you get the same list of folks who’ve always had the same opportunities,” she explains. “Breaking [new] people into the studio system, that’s been something that’s been really important to us.”
Proud mum Keri opens up on Yara been driven since the womb:
“I think she was just born an old human,” she shares. “In one space we’re peers, in another space, if you looked at it traditionally, I’m supposed to be the teacher, but teachers come in many shapes and sizes and she’s one of my teachers.” I ask Mama Shahidi about her daughter’s leadership style. “She’s a gentle giant,” Keri proudly states. “She’s really compassionate and I think what balances her compassion is her focus, so nothing is fluff.”
On being named Dior Global Brand Ambassador for Women’s Fashion and Makeup
“I never rep products that I don’t actually really like,” Shahidi explains. “I spent all of Grown-ish using [Dior] products and every time you see my face out in the world, even if they’re not tagged, it is a Dior makeup product. And it is the first time in my career in which I can put on a foundation and not end up with a breakout by the end of the day. And we’re working 15-hour days.”
Shahidi doesn’t just accept endorsements but says the company culture has to align with her values, what she calls a “reverse morality clause” as one condition of doing business with her. “You as a company also have to fit within my certain values and if there are moments in which you step outside of that because of something a representative says, then there will be consequences,” she warns.
An ace student “Straight A semesters,” Shahidi is unstoppable. “I’m just a nerd through and through. I remember the first time I had gotten a C on a paper in high school, I literally cried and I was like, ‘This is going to affect my life forever.’” She laughs at the memory. “I’m just built to deeply care about grades.”
On quitting Twitter in 2020 she says leaving the social media app was a game changer. “I feel like I used to have two voices in my brain,” she reveals. “When I looked at projects, I’d have my voice and then I’d have what I labeled the ‘Twitter voice.’” The “Twitter voice” was insidious and would sometimes cause her to second guess her choices, she explains. “I have gone to school to further my studies and understanding so that when you hear me speak, it isn’t some shallow ‘hey, I just read about this yesterday. Let me regurgitate what I read.’ I’ve done my best to even challenge my own beliefs, to become more steadfast in what I believe. What was disarming about this ‘Twitter voice’ was that all of that went away and didn’t matter to me as soon as I heard it…. Getting off of Twitter has done wonders for me,” she continues. “It’s allowed me the peace of mind to think through what matters to me and why.”
Up next, Shahidi will play Tinker Bell in Disney’s new live-action Peter Pan film, due in Spring 2022. And in her hands, one of literature’s most famous sidekicks will have a lot more agency, she promises. “She’s genuinely portrayed as Peter Pan’s partner, which is fun,” she says. “She’s still that flawed, pesky character who can get into a bit of trouble sometimes, not necessarily the best influence, but I love her story arc.”