Cosmopolitan UK
Yara Shahidi Image Credit: Cosmopolitan UK
Yara Shahidi Image Credit: Cosmopolitan UK

The Girl Who Woke Up America

Actress, activist, fashion icon and still only 19 years old. Yara Shahidi is the new voice of Gen Z – and never have we needed her more

Tracy Ramsden

When the 45th President of the United States tweeted, “Can you imagine the furor [sic] of a show, ‘Whiteish’! Racism at the highest level?” the breakout star of Black-ish (the prime-time sitcom he was referring to), Yara Shahidi, ignored him. “That tweet was just laughable,” Shahidi says. “But to see, years later, that it came from a man who’s now the president is pretty surreal. You do get angry, but then you get motivated.”

Not that Shahidi needed any motivation. This is the kid who set up her first corporation aged seven (to manage her business affairs as a child actor) and spent her 18th birthday rallying the youth of America to use their vote, with her Eighteen x 18 campaign. As a star of award-winning Black-ish, and her own spinoff show, Grown-ish, she used the red carpet at the Teen Choice Awards 2017 to shine a spotlight on the riots simultaneously taking place in Charlottesville. “When you see such vitriol and anger, you think, what are we celebrating for? But we had the opportunity to use this moment to draw attention to what is happening, for the people who were physical there being guardians of progress.”

Currently studying at Harvard University, after former First Lady Michelle Obama wrote her a recommendation letter (though we’ve been pre-warned not to discuss this), Shahidi is a thoroughly modern movie star who is busting the cliché of lazy,

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