'Black-ish' star Yara Shahidi: 'It was imperceivable that the term black-ish could mean anything good'

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'Black-Ish': The Kids Scheme Over Pops's Stuff

BY: GIBSON JOHNS

Yara Shahidi, who plays Zoey on ABC's hit show "Black-ish," doesn't hold back from saying what's on her mind. Though the 15-year-old actress knew from the get-go that the show would be a hit, she isn't shy about admitting that not everyone shared that same optimism.

"At first, when people heard the name [of the show], they did not receive it very well," she said. "For some reason, there was a negative connotation with the term 'black-ish' -- it was imperceivable that the term 'black-ish' could mean anything good."

Despite the initial trepidation from the public about the show, Shahidi noticed that the tide immediately changed once it hit the air.

"It was lovely to see everyone's minds changed when they saw the pilot," she explains. "It's not like we were trying to segregate ourselves! It's actually a term referring to the idea of joining together and not just being one thing but many things."

Did you know Yara once played "Young Olivia Pope" on ABC's hit show "Scandal"? Check out her best Olivia Pope impression:


One of the reasons Shahidi believes that "Black-ish" has become so successful is because of its base as a family show. The issues that the Johnson family addresses are issues that every family -- regardless of race -- tends to deal with. And that ability -- the ability to be universally relatable -- is key to the success of "Black-ish."



Is there a particular moment or episode that Shahidi related to? You bet.

"'The Nod,' because I am Andre Jr. in that episode," she admits. "I always used to give a very large nod, and it just didn't work for me."

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'Black-ish' star Yara Shahidi: 'It was imperceivable that the term black-ish could mean anything good'
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 09: Actress Yara Shahidi attends Variety's Power Of Women Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on October 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
VENICE, CA - OCTOBER 03: Actresses Amanda Leighton (L) and Yara Shahidi speak onstage during The Paley Center For Media & Google present 'Cracking the Code: Diversity, Hollywood & STEM' at Google Headquarters on October 3, 2015 in Venice, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Google)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 02: Actress Yara Shahidi arrives at Teen Vogue's 13th Annual Young Hollywood Issue Launch Party on October 2, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Actress Yara Shahidi attends the Television Academy's celebration for the 67th Emmy Award nominees for outstanding performances at Pacific Design Center on September 19, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Yara Shahidi and Marsai Martin attend the Television Academy's celebration for the 67th Emmy Award nominees for outstanding performances at Pacific Design Center on September 19, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Actress Yara Shahidi attends the 2015 BAFTA Los Angeles TV Tea at SLS Hotel on September 19, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/BAFTA LA/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: (L-R) Actors Yara Shahidi, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin and Anthony Anderson got their beauty rest with Beautyrest Mattresses at EXTRA's 'WEEKEND OF | LOUNGE' produced by On 3 Productions at The London West Hollywood on September 19, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Actress Yara Shahidi attends Kari Feinstein's Style Lounge at Sunset Marquis Hotel & Villas on September 17, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Lily Lawrence/WireImage)
CENTURY CITY, CA - SEPTEMBER 08: Yara Shahidi and Marcus Scribner visit 'Extra' at the Westfield Century City on September 8, 2015 in Century City, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Marcus Scribner and Yara Shahidi at Backstage Creations Retreat At Teen Choice 2015 - Day 1 on August 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for Backstage Creations)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 08: Actress Yara Shahidi attends the 4th Annual YouTube No Bull Teen Video Awards at YouTube Space LA on August 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vincent Sandoval/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 08: Actress Yara Shahidi attends HollyRod Foundation's 17th Annual DesignCare Gala at The Lot Studios on August 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
BLACK-ISH - ABC's 'black-ish' stars Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson. (Photo by Bob D'Amico/ABC via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 28: Actress Yara Shahidi arrived at the BET & Make A Wish Foundation Recipients BET Experience At LA. Live Red Carpet arrivals - Weekend Events on June 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 28: (L-R) Actors Yara Shahidi, Miles Brown, co-hosts Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and recording artist Silento speak onstage during the 2015 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/BET/Getty Images for BET)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: Co-host Yara Shahidi speaks onstage at 106 & Park presented by Coke during the 2015 BET Experience at Nokia Plaza on June 27, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/BET/Getty Images for BET)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 09: Yara Shahidi arrives at the 'Jurassic World' - World Premiere at Dolby Theatre on June 9, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07: Yara Shahidi attends 'Matilda The Musical' opening night at Ahmanson Theatre on June 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 06: Actress Yara Shahidi attends Brooks Brothers MINI CLASSIC Golf Tournament to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital at Brooks Brothers Beverly Hills on June 6, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Brooks Brothers)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 27: Actress Yara Shahidi attends the 8th Annual Television Academy Honors at The Montage Beverly Hills on May 27, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
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For Shahidi, "Black-ish" is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her career. Of all of the up and coming actors and actresses in Hollywood, she's perhaps one of the most outspoken personalities there is -- she's involved in more than a few different causes and campaigns, all of which, she says, "are close to [her] heart."

In the past, she has worked with anti-bullying campaigns and she's currently working with girls in STEM and Young Women's Leadership Schools.

"Every piece and every humanitarian effort I do is because I truly believe in it."

Notable in her support of these causes is her willingness to promote them with ease on her powerful social media accounts. With such an opportunity to reach so many people -- especially her young (and impressionable) fans -- she would be remiss if she didn't take advantage of that platform.

"Social media is such a gift -- to be able to spread a message within seconds with people that are actually paying attention? It's so nice to be able to use those platforms for good."

Shahidi is also a new face of Brooks Brothers, which she says was "pretty organic" because she's "always loved" the brand.

Did you know Yara's second cousin is the rapper Nas? We asked her to freestyle for us but she insisted she's a better hype man:


"I like being a little preppy, and what's great about Brooks Brothers is that you can go extremely preppy but also make it a bit unconventional -- you can give an edge to your look."



For Shahidi, who describes her personal style as "eclectic and unusual (in a good way)," this is especially valuable. She loves to incorporate different pieces of her wardrobe so that she can maximize that edge, so aligning with a brand that fits her style so well was a golden opportunity.

"I really like mixing feminine pieces with masculine pieces," she explains. "I'm not a girly girl but I love a good dress. I'm not a tomboy but I love a suit, a good pair of oxfords, and a bowtie."

Yara wasn't too impressed with her own Anthony Anderson impression...


Shahidi is a bright young star with a huge future in front of her -- she's a true scene stealer on "Black-ish" and, with such stars as Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross starring alongside her, that's certainly saying something about her star quality. And, despite her rising popularity, Shahidi doesn't think she'll ever take it for granted.

"I don't think it's ever something you can get used to," she says of seeing herself on billboards promoting brands like Brooks Brothers.

That ability of hers to be completely honest and aware of herself, is what makes Yara Shahidi so awesome.

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