The ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ star says ‘Hey, see me anyway,’ when auditioning for roles that are written for white women
Zendaya is breaking racial barriers in Hollywood, one audition at a time.
The 21-year-old star told Marie Claire that there’s not enough roles written for women of color in Hollywood. So instead of waiting for projects to create more inclusive parts, Zendaya reads for characters that she says may have been created with a white woman in mind.
“There was a lot of not getting the audition that I wanted and often going out for parts that weren’t written for a girl who looks like me and just saying, ‘Hey, see me anyway,’ until the right thing stuck,” she told the glossy. “Anytime it says they’re looking for white girls, send me out [to the audition]. Let me get in the room. Maybe they’ll change their minds.”
And it’s working out. When trying out for the part of Mary Jane in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Zendaya was doubtful that she’d even land the iconic character who is a white redhead in the comics, and was played by Kirsten Dunst in the Sam Raimi-directed “Spiderman” trilogy between 2002-2007. She said she even straightened her hair for the audition.
“I didn’t know that they were going to be more diverse in their casting,” Zendaya said. “I didn’t know that I was walking into a situation where they were already breaking the rules. You get so used to having to break the rules for people.”
But despite landing the role in the film and sequel, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which is in production for 2019, Zendaya, whose mother is white and whose father is black, says she still has to work twice as hard as her white counterparts to land jobs.
“What my white peers would be able to get away with at this point in their career is not something that I will be able to do,” she said, adding: “I don’t want to jeopardize it at any point because I am not allowed the room to mess up.”
And Hollywood has made little progress with onscreen diversity. In 2017, 70.7% of the 4,454 speaking characters were white, and only 12.1% were black, 6.2% were Hispanic, 4.8% were Asian, 3.9% were mixed-race, 1.7% were of Middle-Eastern descent and less than 1% each were coded as Native American or Native Hawaiian. And despite the push for more inclusivity, some actresses still say they face discrimination. “Black Panther” actress Lupita Nyong’o, who opts to wear her hair natural to spread positive messages of natural beauty and self-love, said she’s be criticized for her appearance. “My hair is something that, historically, has been shunned,” the Oscar winner said in the Fall 2018 issue of Porter magazine. “I mean, how often do you hear, ‘You can’t get a job with hair like that?’ Natural, African, kinky hair — it’s often been painted as uncivilized or wild.”
And more people are taking a stand by opening the door for people in their fields. Beyonce recently changed history by demanding Vogue hire a black photographer to shoot its cover, a first for the magazine’s 126-year history, bringing in 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell.
“If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again and we will all lose,” Beyonce told Vogue.
While acting is Zendaya’s passion, she says being “financially blessed” has motivated her to give back to others in need, and use her platform help others less fortunate than she is — and that sometimes means stepping down to give others a shot achieving their goals .
“When I’m able to do great things in my career, and fortunately be financially blessed, and then give it away and watch the money actually do good s—t, that is the purpose. That’s the reason why you do things,” she said, of her philanthropic efforts like supporting students in underprivileged communities like Oakland receive access to better education.
“For me, I get to do my passion and what I enjoy, and that has become a forum to do much greater things. Sometimes you build your platform to step off so others can step on, and that’s honestly what motivates me.”
Taking herself less seriously is another goal she has moving forward in her career to show fans that no one is perfect.
“The one thing I struggle with is I sometimes get so afraid to make a mistake,” she said. “Like, I want to be perfect, I want to make all the right decisions, and when I don’t, it stresses me out. But I can’t allow myself to be scared of not always doing the right thing. I will make mistakes in my career, but I can try my best to make the best decisions that I can and learn from my mistakes.”
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