We always had a hunch that Zendaya was more than a pretty face and a Disney star, but when we brought her into the SheKnows studio for an interview, we were blown away by her humility, grace and passion to empower other girls.
The multitalented singer, actress and UNICEF spokesperson has been in the public eye for the better portion of her teen years, yet she’s managed to keep an incredibly level head (kudos to her parents) and adopt a refreshing approach to the way she views our changing society and ideas about sisterhood.
“Why are we fighting each other? We’re all women!”
Zendaya may be young, but she’s got a pretty good grip on double standards and how they exist in all workplaces, not just Hollywood. “I think there’s a double standard with women just in general,” she said. “It feels like it’s always been that way and always will be, but it’s really inspiring to see young women running businesses, killin’ the game not only in business but in art and music. The biggest stars in music right now are all females.”
She’s concerned that more females don’t share her enthusiasm for hardworking women, and she hopes to see everyone present a united front. “I wish that more women, especially in Hollywood, helped each other out and were on each other’s side, rather than [competing] so much,” Zendaya said, adding that she doesn’t think it’s just men that hold women back. “I also think it’s women against women. I think sometimes we have to be together,” she said. “It’s like a sisterhood… That’s why we have so much girl-on-girl bullying. It’s because we always fight each other. Why are we fighting each other? We’re all women! We’re all dealing with the same hormones and same issues and the same stuff. So we need to help each other. That goes for in school and in this Hollywood world.”
Being a Disney star with a huge social media presence, Zendaya often gets to witness girl-on-girl attacks firsthand and says she tries to diffuse internet hate “by leading by example.” She thinks getting too involved with feuding fans can sometimes add fuel to the fire, so she opts to remain a pacifist. “I try to always reroute things to the more positive angle,” she said.
“I’m kind of a hot mess and that’s OK”
Zendaya admitted that while she loves and feels lucky to collaborate with such a great channel, she sometimes worries she’s put in that Disney box; people don’t realize how truly down-to-earth she is. “I’m normal,” she said, adding, “I go on red carpets and I’m all fancy and dancy or whatever but I’m really just, like, a normal teenager girl and I’m kind of a slob. I’m kind of a hot mess and that’s OK. That’s my favorite part about myself: I’m equally both glamazon and slob.”
Staying normal in the world of show business is something Zendaya prides herself on, but she also realizes that because she’s high-profile, she’s open to criticism. “Some people don’t really know who I am, because they don’t take the time to, or haven’t seen different sides of me,” she said. “People who don’t understand you and don’t take the time to really get who you are, they’re never really going to see the full side of your best character.”
Something that Zendaya appreciates about herself? She’s still young. The star is not trying to jump the gun on becoming an adult. “My biggest thing is growing up too fast. With everyone, specifically young girls, we want to be, like, grown, way too quick,” she said. “Like, yo, I’m not trying to get any older than 18, and when 18’s over, then I’m trying to be 19. I’m not trying to rush the process. You can always go forward in time; time will always go forward, but it will never go backwards. You’re never going to relive these days over again. So just live in it. Enjoy it.”
“You don’t have to be a girly-girl to be a woman”
Another little-known fact about Zendaya is that she not only stars in K.C. Undercover but also serves as coproducer. The entertainer takes great pride in being able to have a voice when it comes to the message of the show, and she likes to use it to spread her vision of self-love and being different. “Love yourself. Nobody will love you unless you love yourself,” Zendaya said, adding, “K.C. Undercover empowers the fact that there are different types of femininity. There’s different ways to express yourself. You don’t have to be a girly-girl to be a woman. You don’t have to typically do the things a normal girl would do. You can do anything you want to do. And you can mix it up and you can be exactly who you are.”
Zendaya’s aim for K.C. Undercover is for girls to see themselves in her tough, hard-core spy character or relate to other characters on the series. “It has a lot of diversity, the whole show,” she said. “There’s so many different beautiful colors and even down to hairstyles. For young girls and women to be able to look on TV and say, ‘Hey, they look like me,’ is a big thing.”