When you’re young, it’s so easy to be self centered and focused on trivial things. But figuring out who and what you are and how you want to impact the world at a young age is what separates the girls from the young women. Yara Shahidi is definitely a young woman. The activist and Black-ish star talked with The Fader about being selective when choosing roles, empowering black girls and her commitment to the positive portrayal of people of color. Check out a few excerpts below.
On being selective about the roles she chooses
“I’ve been very intentional with every project that I’ve been a part of. That’s truly something that I’m proud to present to the world. It’s more than just, ‘I need my face out there.’ I feel every part is a representation of who I am even though I’m a different character. It’s hard in this industry to maintain it if you’re not intentional.
I think that often times there are roles that are readily available and it may be the only role that’s been offered in months, but that role is the one that upholds every stereotype that you could possibly think of. It’s really about weighing who I want to be as a human. Because it’s more than just what the public or the community will think [but more so about who] I want to represent as a person. I want to do something that I can be proud of when I look back on it in a few years.”
My goal in life is to contribute in some way. I have been given the support of so many people and followers and fans—it’s so amazing. It’s a part of my duty as an actress to choose roles that I am proud of or evoke a certain response or mean something.
On how her upbringing impacted her view of the road to success
I have to credit it really to my mother because of how intentional she was in raising me.
A pivotal part of me growing up was having my mother being so open with that, and also being unabashedly herself. She let us witness her struggle and her success. So there was never an idealization of, ‘Boom we’ve made it! Oh you’re gonna wake up and be happy over night.’ We got to see the struggle of them coordinating three children. And we got to see it from her and from my father. They worked together to make it happen.
On the importance of positive black images
There are people and different groups that are being overlooked. While it may not seem like a big deal to somebody, it’s hard to aspire to be something that you can’t see. It’s hard to aspire to be a successful business man if every black person you see on TV is playing a drug dealer or somebody in jail.
Her advice to young girls
[My parents] were so open about telling me, ‘You’re going to change ten times in the next few years and that’s ok.’ But I feel like I put this pressure on myself; I had to figure out who I was and needed to know everything about myself. For such a long time I felt as though I had to figure out who I was at that very moment. It became this story of uncertainty, of I don’t know who I am.
Often times that pressure is from what we see around us. We see these amazing people doing big things and what we don’t see is their own struggles. It’s important to understand that. Even if you don’t see it, it’s there. Because everybody is human.
It’s a natural process of human growth to fall. I’m not saying that feeling of falling will ever feel any better, but I think what makes it better is knowing that there’s nothing wrong with you. There is this pressure of: ‘I need to be perfect right now. I need to do what I want to do right now.’ Even though we should aspire to achieve what we want to do, it’s ok to not be perfect right now and to not be perfect ever.
Go Yara! Check out the complete in-depth interview at Fader.