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Here Are Three Times Zendaya Has Used Her Platform To Speak Out Against ‘Light-Skinned Privilege’

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This weekend, Beautycon hosted their New York City festival for all the beauty enthusiast ready to learn about all the hottest trends in health and beauty. Zendaya was among the celebrities in attendance and wanted to use the opportunity to speak on colorism.

Zendaya sat down with Uber’s Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John.

“As a black woman, as a light-skinned black woman, that’s important that I say listen,” Zendaya said. “I’m using my privilege and my platform to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community.”

“I am Hollywood’s acceptable version of a black girl and that has to change,” the red carpet staple  continued. “We’re vastly too beautiful and too interesting for me to be the only representation of that.”

Zendaya was met with cheers from the crowd as Saint John told sis she was “preachin’.”

The convention wasn’t Zendaya’s first time speaking on issues of colorism.

When she was interviewed for Glamour Magazine, along with Yara Shahidi they both fangirled over successful black women, including Beyoncé, Shonda Rhimes, and Michelle Obama, who they both referred to as their 46th president. Shahidi then turned the tables on Zendaya, looping her in with the list of trailblazers for the work she’s done on her Disney Channel show, “K.C. Undercover.” Before signing on for the series, Zendaya demanded that her character’s name be rewritten from “Katy” to “K.C.,” the show feature an all-black family, and that she be hired as an executive producer.

When asked what gave her the confidence to demand a part in her show’s creative choices, Zendaya explained that it was a childhood of not seeing herself on-screen. “I didn’t feel like there was any other choice. I was like, ‘If I’m going to do this, this is how it has to be,’” she said. “There needs to be a black family on the Disney Channel. A lot of people who aren’t people of color can’t quite understand what it’s like to grow up and not see yourself in mainstream media.”

And in spite of her own success, Zendaya admitted that there is still a lot of progress to be made, especially for black women who might not have the same lighter-skinned privilege that she has. “And you know, there is so much work left to be done,” she said. “I’ve talked about this before, but can I honestly say I would be in the position I’m in if I weren’t a lighter-skinned black woman? No.”

In her cover story for Cosmopolitan’s June 2016 issue, a then-19-year-old Zendaya told the publication she feels an obligation to represent for all shades of the melanin spectrum.

“I feel a responsibility to be a voice for the beautiful shades my people come in. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers… Can I honestly say that I’ve had to face the same racism and struggles as a woman with darker skin?” she said. “No, I cannot. I have not walked in her shoes and that is unfair of me to say.”

“But I’m completely behind that woman. I want to be a part of the movement and growth,” she continued. “And if I get put in a position because of the color of my skin where people will listen to me, then I should use that privilege the right way.”

The Oakland native is never one to shy away from being a proud black woman. Activism seems to be in her DNA.
“There is definitely ‘hood’ in me, and it will never leave. It’s part of who I am, as it is part of my family. I was born and raised in Oakland, all my family is from there … and they’re not from the Oakland Hills, we are from the hoods of Oakland,” she mentioned at the festival. “It’s something that I’m proud of, and I’m lucky to be where I’m from. My aunties held Black Panther party meetings in the downstairs basement of our house that I grew up in.”

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