This year, we’re celebrating an extended Black History Month by highlighting a variety of rising artists who are creating history before our very eyes. Most historic figures' stories don't begin from bullying, but a mishap with Fashion Police thrust Zendaya into the national spotlight and let the world get to know the young star.
At the 2015 Academy Awards, Zendaya paired long dreadlocks with a gown, and Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic deemed that the 18-year-old must have smelled of "patchouli" and "weed." Zendaya tackled the critique in a very smart and poignant Instagram post that tackled the "ignorant slurs and pure disrespect" thrown her way from a woman more than twice her age.
In the response, Z touched on stereotypes, judging by appearances, and name-checked successful African-Americans with dreadlocks (including Future Black History honoree Ava Duvernay). The commentary inspired from the comments saw a shakeup of Fashion Police's judging panel with Kathy Griffin and Kelly Osbourne both siding with Zendaya that the comments went too far and saw them leave the show, and even the iconic Barbie showed support when they immortalized the look forever in its own Zendaya doll.
Zendaya has continued to show a wisdom and poise beyond her years. Despite listing Aaliyah as a longtime influence, she had the foresight to step away from Lifetime's maligned and problematic The Princess of R&B biopic. Any interview she gives is full of great life advice (she told Nylon one of the smartest takes on cultural appropriation we've probably ever heard and she explained to Complex how she likens her place as a role model to Tupac). And her music appears to only be getting more sophisticated and a further extension of her artistry (the brilliant "Something New" previews an album for which Z declared, "I'm not settling this time around").
All that gumption and she's still a teenager? This lady has so much to do and say, and she's only just begun.