Zendaya (Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)
Zendaya (Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

Whether singing, acting or clapping back on Twitter, Zendaya always finds a way to use her voice for good.


“I have a billion dreams, and I want to use my platform to help people,” she told Vanity Fair. “I’ve been given this power and I have to start conversations that are bigger than myself.”

CATEGORY: Arts & Culture
AGE: 20
HOMETOWN: Oakland, Calif.
EDUCATION: Oak Park High School
SOCIAL MEDIA: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, website

Those billions of dreams are quickly becoming realities for Zendaya: She has starred on a hit Nickelodeon TV show, created her own app and become the face of her own Barbie doll. The year 2016 was a big one for the star. Zendaya landed her biggest role yet as Mary Jane in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming film. This marks the first time that a black woman will portray Peter Parker’s love interest. In January, she became the newest face of Cover Girl. In November, she launched her fashion line, Daya by Zendaya, which is available online, including at Nordstrom.com.

Amid all her career success, Zendaya has made a name for herself in speaking up about race, body image and beauty standards. In 2015, she told Giuliana Rancic that black hair is “good enough.” She clapped back against racist Twitter trolls who think Spider-Man’s Mary Jane is only a red-headed, white girl. And it’s not always just about clapping back, but also about paying it forward. In January, after an internet troll body-shamed a woman on Twitter, Zendaya offered the plus-size woman a modeling gig with her new line.

“[Acting] has been my passion,” she told Glamour. “But as I’ve started to understand the power and influence I have, I’ve realized it’s really this avenue for me to do bigger, more meaningful things. For me to help somebody.”