Don’t just talk about it; be about it. That’s the subtext of Zendaya’s stunning September 2020 cover story for InStyle, creative-directed by Zendaya’s longtime stylist Law Roach (a 2019 Root 100 honoree) and photographed by Ahmad Barber and Donte Maurice of AB+DM Studio, who also joined forces with Roach to capture Kerry Washington in a full afro for the cover of Town & Country’s September issue. The undone glamour of Zendaya’s air and makeup for InStyle’s cover is the work of Larry Jarah Sims and Sheika Daley, respectively—an all-Black creative team.
The message? Inclusion isn’t just doable, it’s beautiful—as is Zendaya, dressed by Roach in all Black designers, including stylist/designer Jason Rembert’s Aliétte NY, which she wears on one of two covers with the cloudless sky as her backdrop. On the subscriber edition, the star of HBO’s Euphoria wears Hanifa, while in the issue’s feature layout, she models pieces from Pyer Moss, Cushnie, Romeo Hunte, Thebe Magugu, Victor Glemaud, and more. But the undeniable showstopper is a majestic magenta ballgown by 2019 CFDA Fashion Fund winner Christopher John Rogers that makes the most of a post-COVID, socially distanced moment.
“You allowed me, a BLACK [stylist], to creative direct an editorial with my beautiful BLACK muse Zendaya, and feature clothing from all BLACK designers, shoes from all BLACK shoe designers, jewels from all BLACK jewelry designers, we feature BLACK art from BLACK artists,” Roach wrote on Instagram, where he thanked InStyle’s editorial team and Beyoncé stylist Zerina Akers’ Black Owned Everything for helping him produce the shoot with an all-Black creative team and focus. “Look at the magic we can create when someone gives us the opportunity.”
Inside the issue, Zendaya speaks with Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrice Cullors, who recently took over the actress’ Instagram. “What I’ve learned about Zendaya in this short period of time is that she always champions the most vulnerable, and she doesn’t pretend to be something she is not,” Cullors writes, later adding: “She is honest and specific about what she sees as important and necessary for all Black folks.”
Zendaya is self-effacing in the interview, speaking candidly about anxiety, her relationship to activism (she hesitates to call herself an activist), and readily acknowledging her place of privilege during our current crisis, telling Cullors: “I’m grateful for my health and for the fact that I can quarantine safely. I know that I’ll be OK financially once this is over, but for a lot of people that isn’t the case. So anytime I start complaining, I just stop.”
And yes, she teased Euphoria’s second season, saying of the character that has now earned her her first Emmy nod: ”I do miss Rue...going back to that character is a home base for me.” But despite a “beautiful second season that has been written”, we’ll likely have to wait until standardized safety measures are in place to see it. In the meantime, Zendaya will debut the pandemic project she produced and stars in with John David Washington, directed by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.
And what of the all-Black creative bonanza she’s made possible for this month’s InStyle (which we think qualifies as aesthetic activism)?
“I’ve always had a Black stylist and Black hair and makeup artists. But we were able to work with two talented young Black photographers on this shoot too,” the 24-year-old said. “We’re actually around the same age, so it was cool to be with my peers and have an opportunity to show what we can do. There are also so many Black designers people don’t know about, so having an opportunity where they can be in InStyle and get the love they deserve is really special. I hope people are like, ‘Oh, I like that dress!’ And then go support them.”
InStyle’s September issue starring Zendaya will be available on Aug. 21.
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