After years of paying her dues on the Disney Channel, Zendaya is all grown up and has become one of the most beautiful, graceful, talented and respected young women in Hollywood.
2015 was her year—hands down. She became one of the most outspoken celebrities on beauty and hair politics, she reinvented herself as a style icon and she was listed as one of Time’s most influential teens in 2015. This gorgeous starlet was everywhere, serving up her fiercest self on magazine spreads for outlets like Galore and Flare, as well as getting caught by the paparazzi at Paris Fashion Week, too.
Still, Zendaya isn’t just America’s sweetheart because of her pretty face. Aside from her gorgeous looks and her envious sense of style, Zendaya has earned our respect at Team Beautiful for her undeniable work ethic, her commitment to women’s empowerment and her pride in her African American heritage. It’s one thing to amass over 20 million followers on Twitter and Instagram flexing for the camera. It’s another thing to win over people with your ideas and your beliefs on what it means to be a young Black woman in today’s world.
There were countless big moments that this Oakland native, singer, dancer, model, actress and recent high school graduate had over the past year that showed just what an amazing woman she is. But here are eight more of Team Beautiful’s favorite moments in which Zendaya really set herself apart from the other women doing it big in 2015:
1) She Schooled Giuliana Rancic On Natural Hair
When Rancic aired out those incredibly racist comments about Zendaya’s faux locks at the Oscars, Zendaya clapped back with a letter so eloquent and insightful that Rancic truly didn’t know what she had coming. Do you remember that this child was out here referencing Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes? So, so, so good.
2) She Scored Her Own Barbie Doll
We’ll bet it was that classy response Zendaya had for Rancic that later won Zendaya her very own Barbie. Mattel announced they were commemorating Zendaya’s elegance and model attitude for young girls just months after Rancic ripped Zendaya for her natural hairstyle. Ironically, Zendaya’s doll was modeled after the hip-length locks and her flowing eggshell gown that she wore at the Oscars. Zendaya: 2, Rancic -1.
3) She Shut Down A Cyber Bully Who Attacked Her Parents
We’re telling you—Zendaya has an immense talent for eloquent comebacks. Earlier this year, some poor, foolish soul tweeted a photo of Zendaya with her parents with a shady, disrespectful caption. Zendaya came back swinging, praising her parents for being selfless and hardworking teachers that devote themselves to educating “shallow” children like the one who tweeted the photo.
Zendaya’s response wouldn’t have been as epic if she didn’t end her tweet by saying: “please, log out, go to school, hug a teacher and read a textbook…and while you’re at it, go look in the mirror and know that you too are beautiful, because such hateful things only stem from internal struggles. Bless you.”
4) She Slayed The TV & Music Industries
Zendaya isn’t just the former star of Disney Channel’s “K.C. Undercover.” She’s also becoming one of the most coveted guest stars in the industry after getting called to appear on ABC’s mega-hit “Black-ish.” Zendaya is still grinding away on her music career too, and has been teasing new music with Timbaland on Instagram. It’s no wonder she was originally cast to play Aaliyah in the Lifetime biopic that dropped earlier this year.
5) She Repped Her Black Heritage
Zendaya, who has German, Scottish, Icelandic and Nigerian heritage, has been highly outspoken about her appreciation for learning about her roots—specifically her Black ancestors. In an interview for Hunger Magazine, Zendaya said:
“I have that pride in knowing that I’m an African-American. I think when you develop pride in where you’re from then you have more respect and understanding in terms of where other people are from also.”
Amen to that!
6) She Talked About Her Appreciation For The Feminist Movement
Any female celebrity—whether it’s Amber Rose or the fabulous Zendaya herself—who openly embraces feminism as part of her brand is a woman to follow and take seriously.
Zendaya has long been making feminist statements through her social commentary and in her image as a fashion icon, so it’s no surprise that speaking unapologetically about women’s empowerment has become one of the things that she is known for. But it is her very definition of what a feminist is that really impressed us at Team Beautiful. In Flare’s December issue, Zendaya said:
“A feminist is a person who believes in the power of women just as much as they believe in the power of anyone else. It’s equality, it’s fairness, and I think it’s a great thing to be a part of.”
If more people could adopt this mindset, then maybe women’s oppression wouldn’t be such a big issue in the first place!
7) She Called Out Modeliste Magazine For Its Excessive Photoshopping
True to form, Zendaya goes the extra mile to make sure that she’s represented as the woman that she naturally is in the media. Furthermore, she’ll do it while shutting down one of the oldest and widespread tactics the beauty and magazine industries have used to capitalize on making women feel unhappy with the way we look.
As soon as she saw that Modeliste Magazine had photoshopped her photo spread to make her hips and thighs look smaller than they naturally were, Zendaya blasted them on Instagram by showing her natural photos next to the ones edited by the magazine. It didn’t take long for the magazine to release a statement saying that they would pull the issue and publish the un-edited photos instead.
If that’s not using your platform for social change, we don’t know what is.
8) She Hung Out With King Bey & Queen Latifah At Janet Jackson’s Comeback Concert
Anyone hanging out with Beyoncé and Queen Latifah is clearly winning at life and having a good time. This girl has some friends in high places. We caught her chillin’ with Melissa Harris-Perry and Kerry Washington, too. Can you handle all of this Black girl magic going on at once?
Do you have favorite Zendaya moments of your own? Share your comments on Facebook, Twitter and in the section below!