Since catapulting into the limelight thanks to her role as Zoey Johnson on ABC’s Blackish and Freeform’s Grownish, Yara Shahidi has gracefully matured into a bright young star and passionate activist. In the August issue of Elle, the actress spoke candidly about the future she has envisioned for herself and the Black community, the value of the those standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and continuing to highlight Black joy through artistic expression and mentorship. “We’ve consistently been in conversations about how to use this space for something that’s powerful,” Yara, 20, said of this pivotal moment.“Who can we open doors for? Who can we be in community with? Joy comes from being able to consistently embrace our sense of community and revel in our culture year-round,” Yara went on. “We must believe that there is something that we’re fighting for in order to keep fighting.” The stunning actress, who sports a gorgeous black, yellow, red, and blue striped suit styled by Jason Bolden on the cover, values mentorship specifically.
But while educating and taking the next generation under her wing is a top priority to her, Yara is wholly aware that, as she said, “Society tries to take away our ability to imagine, it takes away our ability to participate in a larger collective and nuanced Black imaginary world, because we are consistently burdened with the task of dealing with our reality.”It’s so clear from the young star’s perspective that “There’s very little space to participate in something that is unknown, because there’s so much to handle in our present.” Bearing this in mind, Yara wants to see the nation “completely reconstruct our reality. To not only destroy, but to completely reconstruct what the future looks like.”
Like so many, Yara has been thinking about the state of the nation. For her, the focus is on “my Black and brown communities.” Though she’s young, Yara has noticed the difference between the action of the past and results of the present. “I think the difference [in the past] was a lot of work was pretty quiet and there wasn’t as much of a public narrative around it, but the work was still being done.” Now, as a series regular on Blackish and the lead of her own show with Grownish, Yara is seeing firsthand how members of her community are “doing the work 24/7, 100 percent of the time, with whatever their platform is.”