At 18, Yara Shahidi already has an impressive résumé, which includes roles on the sitcom “Black-ish” and its spin-off series “Grown-ish.” This fall, the model, actress and activist takes a break from show business to focus on her most significant role to date by enrolling as a freshman at Harvard University, which she admitted is the only aspect of her life she’s thoroughly planned.
“Acting is very cool, but it was never really intentional,” revealed Shahidi at a dinner she cohosted for the launch of the Emanuel Ungaro by Malone Souliers collection on Matchesfashion.com at the New York Edition hotel on Wednesday.
Shahidi explained she got her start on-screen through commercial work alongside her actress mother, Keri Salter Shahidi, who also attended the intimate affair. After deferring enrollment at the Ivy League institution for a year, the younger Shahidi is now committed to attending this fall with a double concentration in social studies and African-American studies.
“To be able to actually see it happening is surreal,” she continued. “I’ve been going to the Harvard web site and through the course catalogue since I was 12. To think, ‘Oh God, I got accepted?’ I know it’s already been a full year of having gotten the letter, but it still feels brand new.”
The erudite teen added she is eager to blend in with her peers on the Cambridge, Mass., campus, adding, “I’ve been around adults most of my life so to be in an intellectual and social community of people my age will be interesting.”
On becoming an actress: “It was never something where I woke up and said ‘Hey I want to be an actor.’ It was always something I really enjoyed doing by accident. Because of that it took the pressure off. I also had the very good fortune of not having to work to pay bills for a very long time. It alleviates the need to just be working as much as possible so I’ve been able to be in collaboration with people I truly enjoy.”
On becoming an activist: “Our family has always been engaged and interested in the world around us. [My brothers and I] were always encouraged to have our own opinion at a young age, which is not always something a child is asked — especially to have an opinion with reasoning behind it. That really helped.”
How the prominence of the #MeToo movement has shaped her thinking: “‘Black-ish’ already aligned with how I politically lead so, if anything, that gave me a larger platform. Then people started to ask me to lead the conversations that were started on ‘Black-ish’ and then it became its own thing in which I could finally lead and start conversations. Within the past six months, I feel like, if anything, we’re at the precipice of everyone’s general anxiety and fear. It’s not anything new, but now it can’t be ignored. It’s also a reminder that we can’t separate our identities; I can’t separate my womanhood from my blackness from my Iranian [heritage].”
On the importance of family: “My mom will ask if I want to go [to an event] by myself and I always tell her to please come. Family is what makes all of the travel [feel like] home and worth it. When you’re not with your family it becomes work versus it just being fun.”
On someday running for office: “I’ll be politics adjacent.”
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