Yara Shahidi: A Shining Light in a New Generation of Activism

Continuing on in our series of celebrating inspiring women, this post highlights Yara Shahidi who at just 21 years old has achieved more than many of us could hope to achieve in a lifetime. 

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to an African-American mother and Iranian father in 2000, Shahidi began her acting career at just 6 years old when she starred in a number of adverts for well known brands. She starred in her first film at 9 years old alongside Eddie Murphy in the motion picture ‘Imagine That’. Her acting skills were given full opportunity to develop during her time on the hit US TV show ‘Black-ish’, a series that features an affluent black family and whose script writers don’t shy away from addressing issues of racial inequality. So strong was her performance in Black-ish, producers decided to give Shahidi her own spin-off show, ‘Grown-ish’, which follows the character of Zoey Johnson as she navigates college life and the familiar challenges that come with growing up. 

In 2016, she signed with New York’s Women Management modeling agency, in hopes of providing a platform to see more women of colour in diverse roles. Shahidi has the brains to match her beauty and in 2018 she started at Harvard University with a letter of recommendation from former first lady Michelle Obama; she is majoring in Sociology and African American Studies. As if that wasn’t enough, in 2020 Yara launched her own production company called 7th Sun and has already signed a deal with ABC to produce shows. 

With her fame and celebrity as a platform, Shahidi is using her voice to improve the lives of young people. She founded Eighteen x 18 to encourage young people to vote in the 2018 midterm US elections. She went on to partner with the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN) of New York, which provides online mentorship in an effort to end poverty through education. Shahidi is outspoken on many issues including race, feminism and political activism. Characteristic of the generation born between 1997 and 2015 (known as Gen Z) Shahidi’s activism is intersectional  and inclusive, she states: “To be a girl is to be a universe of sorts. It’s to be ever expansive. It’s known that our femalehood, our womanness, is not even defined by our bodies, but by our commitment to one another, by our intersections, by the identities that lay over all of it. And we also understand that when we wake up we can’t choose what identity we wear, it chooses us”. Shahidi continues to demonstrate her activism by keeping close ties with Non-Governmental Organisations such as Girls for Gender Equity and the Third Wave Fund.  

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