Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi is ready to change the TV landscape when it comes to black representation.
But the industry is still far behind where it should be, especially when it comes to what roles black actresses are offered.
“Stepping into the world of TV and movies as a child actress, I saw the lack of people who looked like me. But it’s so much more than ‘I want to see somebody with my skin tone.’ There could be 10 people who look like me on a show, but they all got killed in the first scene. Or they’re all in jail. Or they’re all the best friend. I want to see somebody who looks like me as the doctor and the criminal and the successful businessperson and the woman barely making a living. I want to see the spectrum.”
Despite only achieving fame recently, Yara has actually been working in Hollywood since she was a kid. She says that the only person she really had to look up to as a young black girl was, well, herself.
“Some of my childhood modeling jobs were with Mattel and Disney, so I’d go into the Disney store and literally see me. My family was cleaning up the garage, and I found these life-size cutouts of 6-year-old me as the black Tinkerbell, black Cinderella, you name it, which is hilarious.”
But it wasn’t as great as it sounds. She added,
“But being the black version of so many characters brought up problems. I was happy to be black, but at the same time there were moments of, ‘Why is this a separate collection?’ There was this realization that being black meant I was the “off-brand” version because Cinderella wasn’t made to look like me.”