'Black-ish' star Yara Shahidi: 'It was imperceivable that the term black-ish could mean anything good'
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."
More recent photos of Yara Shahidi:
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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