By Hannah van Teylingen
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 11 of VARSITY News.
“There is hope in our young people and I just want to say to all my peers out there doing the work in the streets, ‘I see you, I admire you, I thank you.’”
These were the inspiring words that 24-year-old Zendaya Coleman, better known just as
Zendaya, recited in her acceptance speech after making history as the youngest woman ever to
win best actress at the most recent Emmy Awards.
She used to be the stylish and immensely talented dancer on our screens during the days of Shake
It Up on Disney Channel. But since then, her career has taken a complete shift and she has begun
to make waves in the acting world. In 2017, she was given a leading role in the musical The Greatest
Showman alongside Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman, and she has recently played the famous role
of MJ in the latest Spider Man prequels. But what won her the Emmy was far beyond what I
think anyone expected from this grown-up Disney Star.
Her character, Rue, in the HBO show Euphoria is a rebellious and troubled recovering drug-
addict, and Zendaya played her in a way that showed the true grit and raw emotion that actors of
her age may struggle to accomplish. This explains why her win went on to beat much older
nominees such as Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Oh.
Viola Davis’ made history in 2015 by being the first black woman to ever win this Emmy Award
for her titular role in How to Get Away with Murder. This year, Zendaya has overtaken that title, by being
the youngest black woman to ever win the award. It is startling but predictable to see this
lack of diversity in such an award show, but there is power in Zendaya’s win and a sense of
change that comes along with it. The words in her acceptance speech may inspire others out
there who are marginalised in the industry because of their race, culture or ethnicity, and break
free from the normatively white barriers Hollywood has created.
In other corners of the industry, young actors are following in Zendaya’s stride. Timothee
Chalamet was the third youngest person in history to be nominated for Best Actor at the
Academy Awards in 2017, and Quvenzhane Wallis was nominated for Best Actress at the
Golden Globes at the mere age of 9. Florence Pugh and Amandla Stenberg are just a few of the
other honourable mentions that are catching the attention of directors and audiences alike.
Zendaya not only redefined her career as a child star but has also clearly proven herself to be a
phenomenal actor and artist, carving out a path that will inspire those that follow in