Marie Claire’s October cover star may have stunted on the steps of the Met Gala wearing Dior Haute Couture on Monday night, but on normal school nights, she’s a senior at Harvard, double majoring in social studies and African American studies with “straight A semesters.” That’s just part of the multifaceted magic of Yara Shahidi, who tells journalist Lola Ogunnaike: “I’m just a nerd through and through...I’m just built to deeply care about grades.”
She’s also built to care deeply about community, civics and current events, as evidenced by the 21-year-old’s increasing outspokenness on inequity, voting rights, and more. “I think she was just born an old human,” Keri Shahidi, Yara’s mother shares, later adding: “I’m supposed to be the teacher, but teachers come in many shapes and sizes and she’s one of my teachers.”
“Our goal is to really collapse the hierarchy and how power is traditionally disseminated in spaces like this and give people autonomy to have a voice,” Keri adds in reference to their recently formed production company, 7th Sun. “That balance of compassion and focus has really moved us forward and it keeps us inspired.”
That balance extends to Shahidi’s growing list of brand partnerships, which Marie Claire reminds us have to date included Adidas, Bobbi Brown, Tory Burch, Chanel, Cartier and now Dior. As an in-demand face and personality, Shahidi has leveraged her mass appeal to employ a “reverse morality clause” in her agreements.
“You as a company also have to fit within my certain values and if there are moments in which you step outside of that because of something a representative says, then there will be consequences,” she tells the magazine.
What Shahidi will not do (at least, not at this juncture) is subject herself to the echo chamber that is Twitter, having left the platform in 2020
“I have gone to school to further my studies and understanding so that when you hear me speak, it isn’t some shallow ‘hey, I just read about this yesterday. Let me regurgitate what I read,’” she explains. “I’ve done my best to even challenge my own beliefs, to become more steadfast in what I believe...Getting off of Twitter has done wonders for me. It’s allowed me the peace of mind to think through what matters to me and why.”
Like many of her peers in both generation and fame, peace of mind is top of mind for Shahidi. She shouts out the likes of Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles and Simone Manuel for their very public prioritization of mental health, even in the face of—or more accurately, because of—public pressure.
“I’m so grateful for their decisions, not only to put their mental health first, but to share that journey with us and be public about it,” says Shahidi. “That’s not something that they owed any of us. They took something that happens behind the scenes for so many of us and put it front and center.”
“My mother said something to me that’s always really resonated,” she later shares. “In order for you to do your best work, you have to take care of yourself.”
That’s applicable to a broader scope, as well. While Marie Claire positions Shahidi as the voice of her generation, she simply considers herself in good company. “Even in these really sad moments, the way my peers astound me regularly with what they continue to figure out to do to be of service to the world, things that I could not have even imagined,” she says, later adding. “It makes me excited for where we can go. We’re in a time in which we’re no longer settling for reform, but genuine reimagination.”
Yara Shahidi’s full cover story is now available on Marie Claire.com.