She has been the star of many children's TV series. Now Zendaya is making her cinematic debut with the new episode of Spider-Man. And only now, he tells Grazia, has he realized he has a mission: to use his popularity to push others to do the right thing.
I was tremendously nervous, but no one noticed, because I always try to appear controlled. After all, when I read the screenplay I thought: “But who wouldn't want to interpret a wonderful film like this, and have similar travel companions”? ». I wasn't expecting that live Zendaya she was so tall and thin, and above all that she was so mature. As I listen to her talk about her big screen debut, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, in cinemas from 6 July, my attention is divided in two: one part follows the thread of his speech, the other looks for a clue that the girl in front of me is really only 20 years old.
Deep dark eyes, perfect skin, the actress and singer has that beauty typical of someone born from a melting pot of ethnicities: her father is African American, her mother has German, Scottish and Irish origins. His full name is Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman and comes to the interview, in Barcelona, with bright green silk trousers, very high white stilettos and a shirt that adds a touch of red and leaves the shoulders bare.
Zendaya is a star of the Disney, a nursery that produces professionals capable of singing, dancing and acting. And she, born on the bay of San Francisco, started as a model and then landed on the TV series A tutto rhythm, the first of many successes. Then came the musical debut, then the collaborations with pop stars Selena Gomez, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, and the signing of a contract with Hollywood Records.
And now it's time to jump to the big screen: she will be Michelle in a new version of the comic in which Spider-Man is played by Tom Holland. And to testify that for Zendaya it will not be a one-act act, soon after it will be in The Greatest Showman, alongside Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron.
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Why was she so excited at the tryouts for Spider-Man?«I was afraid of not being able to give my best. After 12 years of TV, I was looking forward to interpreting a film, and this is the first, you understand? I got over my anxiety by concentrating on what I had to do: acting ".
Michelle, her character, is quite mysterious."I found her very interesting precisely because we know little about her: she is very intelligent, an intellectual who reads many books. Precisely because of these qualities, she struggles to hang out with people of her age, partly because she doesn't know how to make friends, partly because she loves being alone and being independent. Anyway, I enjoyed playing it ».
Was Spider-Man part of your childhood?“I didn't read superhero comics as a child, no one introduced me to that world. Yet I remember the first movie in the series I saw: I was 16 and I loved it. Spider-Man is a hero. And the one played by Tom Holland will be even more engaging, because he is a real person ».
In what sense?«He is not a boy who grew up amidst the comforts and, for those who, like me, know what it means, it is a very powerful suggestion: 'I too can have an extraordinary second identity, like him'».
Tell me about Zendaya's early life, everyday life. “I grew up in Oakland, not the easiest community to live in. From a certain point of view it is a wonderful area, rich in culture, history, activism: many important things have happened there in music and in the struggle for civil rights. However, for the same reason, it is a difficult place, in addition to creativity there is a lot of violence. But it is from places like this that the best people come ».
Then there is its star dimension.“This is my life as a superhero, where I can do anything, especially play with different personalities: it's still me, but in a better version. It seems to have special powers, just like Spider-Man ».
And how do you use these skills? "The protagonist of the film developed his faculties at the age of 15, it all happened to me between the ages of 13 and 15, so I had to learn to use popularity responsibly, always making the right choice and making a commitment. Normally I don't lie, I always say what I think ».
Always wear your seatbelt kids.
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What superpowers are needed to become a movie star and, now, also a fashion icon?«I believe that my main gift is the ability to connect with many people around the world. People know who I am and I have this ability to say to young people: “I like this, and since I like it you might like it too” ».
It is called empathy.“It's a power, and I wonder every time how to use it to do the right thing. I want to be a source of positive inspiration, as many look at me and want to imitate me. I am always focused on giving the best version of myself so that the kids make the right choices too. Being a role model for young people, in the most delicate part of their life, when they are developing an identity, is a great responsibility ".
What do we not know about her?“I'm glad I have a sweet temper. Plus I don't like going out at night, and that keeps me out of trouble. '
How did his parents help him become who he is?«They are both teachers, they have greatly influenced my growth. Teachers are the least paid and least understood figures in our society and, instead, I wonder what is more important than their job, which is to dedicate time to young people and teach them to become as aware as possible. Isn't this the only way to have a better world? Raising mature kids means having good leaders in the future who will be able to lead the world. That is why I am so lucky to have them as teachers and parents. If I hadn't been an actress I would have followed their path ".
Is it also a burden? “It becomes if you look at it that way. You spend all your time asking yourself: "What will they say if I move like this?". But I like to consider it a gift. I am grateful that I have been put in a position where parents trust me in the most important thing in their life, their children. If you turn on the TV and allow the kids to watch me, you leave me room to enter their mind, be part of their life and have posters with my face on the walls of their rooms. For me it is a gift and not a pretext to exalt myself. I'm really what I look like, a girl who doesn't mess around."
And how did they react when she said she wanted to be an actress? “They asked me: 'Is this really what you want to do? Okay then, we believe in you and we are with you”. They helped me, letting me follow my instincts ».
They must have made a lot of sacrifices too, she started when she was still almost a child. “That's right, and I needed them. Oakland is a six hour drive from the Los Angeles studios, has no idea how many times a week we've been back and forth for years. It was challenging, especially for the meager salaries of two teachers, but it was worth it.”But isn't having your parents as teachers strange? “I can't say it was heavy, quite the contrary. There are advantages, for example, I can walk into my father's office as many times as I want and use his microwave."
What would you like to do in the future? “I have many wishes, but happiness is at the top of the list. What I do, whether it's movies, fashion or music, I want to enjoy it. And if one day I realize that I am not having fun anymore and that I am not satisfied, I would devote myself to something else. Maybe I'd become a teacher too."
We say goodbye and I'm even more admired than when our conversation started. Zendaya is much older than her age and, above all, she can make kids learn what a real super power is: believing in themselves.