Disney sweetheart to Emmy winner, Zendaya makes history
Zendaya shook it up on Sunday evening at the 72nd Emmy Awards by creating groundbreaking history as the youngest nominee and the second Black woman ever to win the golden statuette for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
The 24-year-old actress’ historic Emmy win beat distinguished actresses, including Jennifer Aniston and Laura Linney, for her career-shifting role as the teenage character Rue in the popular HBO show “Euphoria” — which claimed three Emmys in total that evening.
“I know that this feels like a really weird time to be celebrating,” Zendaya said tearfully during her acceptance speech. “But I just want to say like there is hope in the young people out there. I know that our TV show doesn’t always feel like a great example of that but there is hope in the young people. To all my peers out there doing the work, in the streets: I see you, I admire you, and I thank you.”
After her celebrated victory, many celebrities and supporters exercised their noble appreciation by posting their complimentary messages to Zendaya Coleman, who goes by Zendaya, a Shona name meaning “to give thanks” inspired by her father.
From playing an aspiring Rocky dancer on Disney to playing a teen addict on HBO, the actress has taken on some diverse roles in her acting career. Zendaya, however, arguably had the best transition from childhood stardom to adult fame in the film industry.
Born on Sept 1, 1996, in California, the Oakland actress always had dreams of being in the spotlight during her childhood. Unknowingly to some, Zendaya’s career started nationally on Kidz Bop — the No. 1 music brand for children — in 2009. The first-role she auditioned for was in a school play, “James and the Giant Peach.”
“I tried out for the lead, but I ended up being cast as the silkworm. I didn’t have any lines, but you know what? I killed it,” Zendaya said in an interview with W Magazine. “I was a worm, but I was reacting and giving face, and I was the best dang silkworm there ever was.”
Zendaya’s first break-out role was the Disney show “Shake It Up.” She played the role of Rocky Blue at only 14 years old as she co-starred with actress and model Bella Thorne for three seasons. The two childhood stars admitted to competing with each other during the first season’s shooting to be highly favored in the industry. However, both women have received many career opportunities from the Disney show, whichpremiered to 6.2 million viewers.
Continuing on the Disney path, Zendaya had roles in original Disney movies like “Zapped” (2014) and “Frenemies” (2014). The Disney starlet starred in her own Disney Channel series called “K.C. Undercover” from 2015-2018. Growing up in a biracial household, Zendaya always advocated for Black rights as a biracial woman in America. She has said she wanted to have a TV representation of someone who resembles her community.
“The only way I was going to come back to the Disney Channel was if I was in a position of more power,” Zendaya told Cosmopolitan. “One thing that is really important to me is diversity on the channel. It’s hard as a young person of a different ethnicity or background to look at the TV and not see anyone who looks like you. Representation is very important.”
The then-16-year-old star put on her dancing shoes to compete in the 16th season of “Dancing with the Stars” with her partner Val Chmerkovskiy. Continuing to break tradition, Zendaya was the youngest contestant to compete in the show and finished the contest as the first runner-up in 2013.
The actress became a triple threat pursuing the music industry. She released her self-titled debut album in 2013, featuring her hit song “Replay” with more than 190,000 views on Youtube.
Despite being a triple-threat, Zendaya didn’t stop there as she additionally wrote an advice book in 2013 to her die-hard Disney fans called “Between U and Me: Confidence Your Tween Years with Style and Confidence.” As she proceeded to style with confidence, the star had a special Barbie doll edition dedicated to her controversially famous 2015 Oscar hairstyle and Mattel’s desire to diversify the Barbie brand. The doll actress became the face of the beauty brand CoverGirl and furthered her career in modeling.
The 5-foot-10 fashionista returned to greater heights when she debuted in Spiderman “Homecoming” and Spiderman “Far from Home” as the character “MJ,” and then starred in the award-winning film “The Greatest Showman,” performing mostly all her stunts.
The leading-edge actress landed her career-shifting role last year that amazed many fans, in the HBO series “Euphoria,” leading to her Emmy nomination.
Although some critics said this is the biggest upset for a 24-year-old actress to win against other acclaimed actresses, Zendaya has inspired many young ladies of color across the nation with her flourishing career.
Universally, Zendaya is an inspiration to numerous young women and aspiring actresses as she continues to break records and set the standard.