Black History Month Highlights – Zendaya

She's a movie star, tv star, singer, dancer, designer, philanthropist, and activist. She's Gen Z icon Zendaya.

By Chuck Walton

Zendaya in "Malcolm and Marie."

© Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

She's the youngest winner ever of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for HBO's teen-life-as-debaucherous-glorious-debacle "Euphoria." And she's already generating plenty of Oscar buzz for a Best Actress nomination for "Malcolm & Marie." Today we're honoring the incredible talent of the constantly evolving and surprising Zendaya.

How You Know Her

You might know her as the irrepressible "MJ," Peter Parker's constant crush and eventual girlfriend, in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and "Spider-Man: Far from Home." Or you might know her as the in-too-deep-yet seen-it-all teenage heroine in HBO's "Euphoria."

If you're a long-time Zendaya fan, you probably caught her early on as the star of Disney Channel shows like "Shake It Up" (as background dancer Rocky Blue to co-star Bella Thorne's CeCe Jones) and "K.C. Undercover (as teen-turned-spy K.C. Cooper).

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved./courtesy Everett Collection

Or if you've only recently discovered her, you might know her starring opposite Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman in the larger-than-life circus musical tale "The Greatest Showman," for which her tune with Efron, "Rewrite the Stars," shot up the charts in multiple countries.

If so, you've probably already caught "Malcolm & Marie," just released on Netflix and shot during the 2020 pandemic. It's a slow-burn, intimate tale that finds two lovers digging deep at each other and their relationship.

Her Life So Far

What's amazing is that the accomplished actress is only just getting started. The 24-year-old's been making her mark since early on, hitting her stride as a child performer and proving she's still very much a work in progress.

Zendaya grew up with five older siblings in the Oakland area. Her dad's African-American, and her mom, a teacher, is German and Scottish. She performed at the California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda, California, as a youngster, and joined hip-hop dance group Future Shock at age 8.

She attended the Oakland School for the Arts, and was already modelling in commercials for Old Navy and Macy's by the time she won her role in "Shake It Up."

Besides her stints in Disney Channel series and made-for-tv movies, Zendaya got to show off her dance moves on season 16 of "Dancing with the Stars," winning runner-up status alongside dance partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy. At age 16, she was the youngest at the time to compete on the show.

© Marvel / courtesy Everett Collection

From there, she's been extremely in demand, with film projects in the MCU, the Emmy for "Euphoria" and the buzz now for "Malcolm & Marie." It should be noted, though, that she's a true renaissance woman, acting also as a fashion ambassador for Tommy Hilfiger, and showing up for worthy causes all over the place.

She spent her 18th birthday campaigning to feed 150 children in Tanzania, Haiti and the Philippines through feedOne. As an ambassador for Convoy of Hope, she spent her 20th birthday campaigning to raise $50,000 for the group's Women Empowerment Initiative. During the summer of 2020, she was out on the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the George Floyd protests.

The Movie to Watch

In "Malcolm & Marie," as the long-suffering and supportive girlfriend of John David Washington's filmmaker character, Zendaya puts on a fireworks display of raw emotion. Seeing the two go toe to toe into the depths of their passionate romance is a turbulent and tantalizing experience. Shot in gorgeous black and white, the film is all about the actors' performances, and Zendaya does not disappoint. It's a revelatory, breakout showcase.

Malcolm & Marie

Drama / 2021 / R

Smoldering tensions and painful revelations push a filmmaker and his girlfriend toward a romantic reckoning.

What's Up Next

Besides the tentpole features "Dune" and the next "Spider-Man" movie, Zendaya will star in "A White Lie" as Anita Hemmings, an African-American with light skin who tries to pose as a white woman to attend Vassar College in the 1890s. She's also set to play legendary lead singer Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes in an adaptation of Spector's autobiography, "Be My Baby."

More Black History Month Highlights:

-Feb. 1 – Regina King

-Feb. 2 – Michael B. Jordan

-Feb. 3 - Idris Elba

-Feb. 4 - Octavia Spencer

-Feb. 5 - Ryan Coogler

-Feb. 6 - Zoe Saldana

-Feb. 7 - Forest Whitaker

-Feb. 8 - Halle Berry

-Feb. 9 - Jordan Peele

-Feb. 10 - Zendaya

-Feb. 11 - Denzel Washington

-Feb. 12 - Viola Davis

-Feb. 13 - Chiwetel Ejiofor

-Feb. 14 - Tyler Perry

-Feb. 15 - John Boyega

-Feb. 16 - Daniel Kaluuya

-Feb. 17 - Danny Glover

-Feb. 18 - Zoe Kravitz

-Feb. 19 - Chadwick Boseman

-Feb. 20 - Spike Lee

-Feb. 21 - Taraji P. Henson

-Feb. 22 - Kerry Washington

-Feb. 23 - Barry Jenkins

-Feb. 24 - Eddie Murphy

-Feb. 25 - Will Smith

-Feb. 26 - Ava DuVernay

-Feb. 27 - Angela Bassett

-Feb. 28 - Lakeith Stanfield

About the Author

Advertisement