Why Yara Shahidi Is An Icon In Waiting

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by: Josh Newis-Smith
20 Mar 2018

Destined for Harvard like Elle Woods and Emma Watson before her, the Black-ish star maybe still Grown-ish but her impact is causing waves among her peers.

In a world of overly curated Instagram posts, sponsored tweets and filtered (both visually and verbally) AF celebrities, Yara Shahidi is not only a refreshing role model for young women – or any woman for that matter – she is redefining what we have come to expect a leading actress to be. Politically profound and just as unapologetic with her opinions as she is with her natural hair – just how it should be, too!

After playing Eddie Murphy’s daughter in Imagine That aged seven, Yara broke out in Black-ish, the family comedy that centers around a parents’ struggle to hold onto their African-American identity whilst looking after their family in a largely white, middle class area. The issues pushed to the fore by the show have become Yara’s conversation topics on social media, engaging and activating her audience one post at a time.

Now Yara is heading out on her own and hitting college in spin-off show, Grown-ish, where the star not only takes on a lead role but also owns her own narrative. Perhaps less comedic than Black-ish, the show is focused on addressing the realities of going to university and discovering that your identity isn’t as fully formed as you once thought. With a series of stories about drugs, sexual orientation and forming new friendships, the show is set to have just as much impact with Generation Z as Yara herself.

WATCH: Yara Shahidi talks being Topshop obsessed with Josh Newis-Smith AKA Joshington Hosts

It’s Yara’s work away from the screen that has led to her being named amongst Forbes’ 30 Under 30. This year alone has seen Shahidi launch her own imitative, Eighteenx18 to educate first time voters on the ins and outs of voting whilst encouraging them to put pen to paper.


A post shared by Yara (يارا‎) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on


A post shared by Yara (يارا‎) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on Feb 27, 2018 at 8:17pm PST

Everything Yara says is quotable, worthy of not just a tweet but a series of slogan tees. For instance her take on social media is highly refreshing, “when you look at Instagram, you have to define yourself in 150 characters or less and do it in a way that’s appealing to other people. To create change, to be more constructive, to promote another way of living, we have to change the infrastructure itself rather than force people to define themselves in such little, confining tight spaces.” Boo yahhh!

Her journey towards being a figurehead for teenagers living in Trump’s America hasn’t always been plain sailing as she told Porter, having experienced a questionable conversation with someone at a White House event. “I said that I wanted to be a thought leader and she just kinda chuckled and said, ‘You need credentials for that.’ It was really off-putting. I come from such strong support; I come from the land of ‘of course’. Like, ‘of course this is going to happen’ because we have willed it to be and we are going to put in the work to make it happen.” Whoever her doubters are, this is one headstrong teenager who WILL make ‘things’ happen.

Such determination sees her headed to Harvard in between one seriously intense filming schedule. Yara selected the University because she wishes, away from the spotlight, to learn from those who make serious impact on our lives, but are under appreciated due to them lacking celebrity status. I am pretty sure I picked my university due to the nightlife…
Being so woke, doesn’t stop her wardrobe being equally woke, either. Over the past year the starlet in the making has grown into her gowns. At the SAGs with her natural hair in full FRO mode, Shahidi’s style made quite the entrance into the popular imagination by wearing a Brandon Maxwell jumpsuit with a train worthy of conversation.

Despite the world seemingly being at this young woman’s feet, Yara when speaking to Oprah (as one does) credits not only her chakra necklaces with keeping her grounded but her parents for giving her a semblance of normality (if you call only watching one hour of television a week growing up normal and not torture!). Her relationship with her mother regularly lovingly plays out on Instagram.


A post shared by Yara (يارا‎) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on


A post shared by Yara (يارا‎) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on Jan 11, 2018 at 2:39pm PST

But what is it about Yara that has captivated two million followers and millions more in the years to come? In Yara’s view, “they’re expecting an authentic human and that is one thing that I can provide. Usually I am just a kid in a hoodie, jeans, and a fanny pack.” Moreover this is a girl who isn’t pretending to know it all, she’s still learning, just like all of her legions of followers – hence why she is Grown-ish.


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