Yara Shahidi made an impact in 2017 and is doing it again in 2018.
Most known for being the older, intellectual daughter Zoey Johnson on Black-ish and lead role in the forthcoming spinoff Grown-ish, Yara is opposite of the self-obsessed Zoey. Within a few years, the world has watched Yara rise and grow from a successful actress into a humanitarian, feminist, and social activist.
Naturally talented, she was born to Keri Shahidi, a model, and Afshin Shahidi, a photographer.
Yara has been working since she was 6 years old. As a child, she first took on acting roles in commercials for big names like Disney, McDonald’s, and Target.
Yara attended the Dwight School on the Upper West Side for high school. Between taking classes and filming episodes of Black-ish, she has somehow managed to maintain her focus on educational pursuits.
School is where she started Yara’s Club, an extension membership program partnered with the Young Women’s Leadership Network that focuses on the YWLN’s vision: Empowering youth to defeat poverty through education.
In 2015, she discussed balancing her time with The New York Times.
“I’m filming nine and a half hours a day five days a week, but whenever I have a free moment, I’m talking to the U.N. or working on how to get Yara’s Club launched. Giving back is not just something you do as an adult.”
In June, Yara announced that she would be attending Harvard University, an important moment in her educational history. Shahidi has been taking her studies seriously since day one. In a Vogue interview, she shared that attending university has been the one and only goal in life that she had planned.
“School has been the one thing that I’ve consistently had my eyes on for the past 12 years. There’s that initial fear when you close your eyes and have to click the ‘look at decision’ button [on each college application] to see what they’ve said about you. It can feel like such a judgment on your entire life.”
Shahidi is an activist for feminism, STEM awareness, and self-empowerment. She has become the face for Science Sleuth Campaign, which has partnered with Dosomething.org for the push of STEM subjects.
Always a fan of mathematics and the sciences, Yara has voiced her excitement over being able to get kids focused on STEM subjects.
“I want young people to know that our communities need us to keep learning and contributing so that we can help solve crises like world hunger and disease. Young minds, many times, think of solutions that could not be found before!”
She partnered with Always on the #LikeAGirl campaign. She shared what the campaign meant to her personally with CBS.
“What I love is there is no definition to what it means. So long there’s been a stigma: ‘You throw like a girl; you cry like a girl.’ It usually implies sensitiveness but what #LikeAGirl has done is it makes it something you can define something as you wish. It’s not defined by other people. It’s not a weakness or something undesirable. It’s about being unabashedly you.
“Embrace failure,” the campaign slogan, is Yara’s advice to young women as well. Failure is natural and necessary, and Yara advises you embrace all of it, from beginning to end.
“I think ultimately, the goal is not to say failure gets easier, failure gets more fun, falling is the best thing ever — but if anything, what I like to say is when you build your support network, when you find rituals that calm you down, you find moments to take care of yourself and not stew in the failure, then you’re not really afraid of falling because you know you won’t fall too far anyway.”
Smart, funny, poised, relaxed, and wise, Shahidi slays interviews with ease, specifically when asked for her opinion on a subject she feels passionate about.
But above all else, Yara is still just a beautiful, giggly teenage girl who is enjoying every experience that comes her way.
Over the next four years at Harvard, we’ll be sure to hear more impactful news stories regarding Yara and her activism.
Perhaps we’ll see her win the Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year award sometime soon.
Whatever route she takes, we know Yara will be doing wonderful things.