The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders

Acting Up: These young women have used their careers to impact the media community

in Beyond Our Walls/Features/Our Voices/Showcase by

In honor of women’s history month, here are some young women who use the platform of social media to advocate for inclusivity, feminism, equality, and diversity. Through their work of incorporating activism into their acting, the following girls have continued to stand out above other celebrities in their field.

Yara Shahidi:
Best known for her work in ABC’s hit TV show Black-ish as Zoey Johnson, 18-year-old Shahidi has taken media by storm while participating in the Black Lives Matter movement in her new TV show. She uses her character in her in her spinoff TV show Grown-ish to advocate for this. “As teenagers, we have a lot of power that we’re unaware of,” Shahidi said in an interview with SELF. Yara continues to use her platform as a well-known actress to spread the message of hashtags like #blackgirlmagic, #lovetrumpshate, and #WeTooAreAmerica. Shahidi has partnered with people like Youtube singers and fellow activists Chloe x Halle on her spinoff Grown-ish to appeal to a larger audience in media. “We have the opportunity to be taken seriously because we are a mass market, and when we realize the power that we actually hold, it’s easier to understand how we facilitate change.”

Rowan Blanchard:
16-year-old Blanchard first got her start on the Disney channel TV show Girl Meets World, a spinoff of 1990’s sitcom Boy Meets World. This youth activist and social media influencer fight for intersectional feminism and racial inclusivity in workspaces and society. Blanchard has participated and advocated for movements such as Time’s Up, endorsed by more than 300 women in the entertainment industry including Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes. She advocates for media movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #BeTheChangeYouWantToSee, #FindOurGirls, #SayHisName, and #PowerToTheYouth. “A lot of that, in my experience, is learning to read bell hooks and Audre Lorde, rather than generic versions of feminism that I was getting about white women,” Blanchard said in an interview with Teen Vogue Magazine. “Also, making sure my money was going where my mouth is: going to see movies that represented something I believe in, rather than paying to see a movie that was all white people,” Rowan also incorporates her love for fashion into her activism, promoting brands and companies that support political stances such as pro-choice and anti-animal cruelty.

Zendaya Coleman:
Film by film and episode by episode, 21-year-old Zendaya Coleman, better known as Zendaya, is using her platform as a black actress and model to promote things she believes in. Zendaya has been an actress for Disney channel since 2010 when she partnered with actress Bella Thorne for the TV show Shake It Up and recently ended the Disney career with producing her own show, K.C. Undercover. “I wanted to make sure that [my character] wasn’t good at singing or acting or dancing. That she wasn’t artistically inclined. I didn’t want them to all of a sudden be like, ‘Oh, yeah, and then she sings this episode!’ No. She can’t dance; she can’t sing. She can’t do that stuff. There are other things that a girl can be,” Zendaya said in an interview with Vogue. During the planning of the show, Zendaya had some special requirements before she was sure it was TV ready. First, at just 16 years old, she requested they make her a producer, making her one of the youngest producers of a Disney channel series in the industry. Next, she insisted that the show feature a family of color, stating that she needs representation of black children and teenagers that watch the channel. Zendaya continues to fight for equal representation in the entertainment industry through her social media platforms, @zendaya on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Amandla Stenberg:
19-year-old Amandla Stenberg uses her acting, filmmaking, and social media to spread empowerment of her personal identities. She stands behind the Black Girl Magic and feminist movements, as well as supporting the LGBTQ+ communities. Stenberg herself identifies as pansexual and has used her platform to advocate for black LGBTQ+ women’s rights.
At just 14 years of age, Stenberg became an activist with the No Kid Hungry organization, for whom she wrote several articles. Three years later she released the video project “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows,” which Teen Vogue discovered and asked her to make a video series on the Black Girl Magic movement. After working with women like Oprah Winfrey and Solange Knowles, Amandla continues on to use her acting as a social justice outlet. In 2016, she made an appearance along with other artists such as singers Chloe x Halle in Beyonce’s Lemonade music video. Through her short films and filmmaking, Stenberg has combined her passions of acting and activism, shown in her short film Blue Girls Burn Fast and the recent Everything, Everything which showcases a young interracial couple. “I think film is the medium that shapes culture the most. Especially in America. I think the people that we see in the films are the people who we view society as,” Amandla stated in an interview with SuperSoul TV. “And I think that’s why there needs to be more representation for different kinds of people. And it’s happening. I wish it would happen faster.”

Eleanor Jeansonne spins her sophomore life into the best one possible. She does aerial arts, youth theater, and activism. When she’s not spending her time performing or fighting for change, she enjoys walks in her neighborhood. She also has several pets, including snakes, cats, and chickens. She joined newspaper as a way to enjoy and improve in writing, and enjoys anything history related.

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