How Zendaya Went Head-to-Head with Disney Channel — And Won

zendaya aesthetic
credit: @zendaya/Instagram

Over the last few years, Zendaya Coleman has become known for her acting, singing, and style. But it’s about time you know about her business prowess.

Coleman, who first came to fame alongside Bella Thorne on Disney’s Shake it Up isn’t the stereotypical Disney star. Yes, she’s a triple threat in acting, singing, and dancing. But what’s rarely talked about his her mature-beyond-her-years smarts and business sense.

We often catch a glimpse of this on social media, where she frequently takes on racist comments, misogyny, and those Giuliana Rancic comments about her “looking like she smells like patchouli oil or weed.”

But what you may not know is that she went toe-to-toe with Disney executives for her new show K.C. Undercover. She started off by rejecting the original title Super Awesome Katy (“the title is whack. That’s gonna change.”) and the character’s name (“Do I look like a Katy to you?”). And then she took on her character’s personality. She said,

“I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t good at singing or acting or dancing. That she wasn’t artistically inclined. I didn’t want them to all of a sudden be like, ‘Oh, yeah, and then she sings this episode!’ No. She can’t dance; she can’t sing. She can’t do that stuff. There are other things that a girl can be. I want her to be martial arts–trained. I want her to be able to do everything that a guy can do. I want her to be just as smart as everybody else. I want her to be a brainiac. I want her to be able to think on her feet. But I also want her to be socially awkward, not a cool kid. I want her to be normal with an extraordinary life.”

This kind of character is unique for Disney. Although Selena Gomez’s character Alex on Wizards of Waverly Place came close to meeting these demands, few others have displayed the many talents that young girls can have.

With many young fans, Zendaya decided these conditions were non-negotiable.

“A lot of people don’t realize their power. I have so many friends who say yes to everything or feel like they can’t stand up for themselves in a situation. No: You have the power.”

In addition to K.C. Undercover, Zendaya will also appear in the new Spider-Man movie, a casting that caused controversy due to her race. Of course, her response was classy AF. At the time the news broke, she said,

“Of course there’s going to be outrage over that because for some reason some people just aren’t ready. I’m like, ‘I don’t know what America you live in, but from what I see when I walk outside my streets of New York right now, I see lots of diversity and I see the real world and it’s beautiful, and that’s what should be reflected and that’s what is reflected so you’re just going to have to get over it.’”

In addition to her acting and music career, Zendaya also has her own clothing line Daya by Zendaya, which just dropped their second collection.

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.