Growing up, I dreamed of the day my parents would drag me out of school and force me to be a child actor. The fact that they allowed me to live a normal and well-adjusted childhood away from the pressures of LA toxicity still seems cruel. I like to bring this injustice up every Christmas and remind them that we could be celebrating the festivities at Elton John’s if they hadn’t been so short-sighted.
They may have had a point though. The term ‘Child Star’ is almost exclusively synonymous with a quarter-life crisis. To be a ‘Child Star’ and not have any major scandals before your third decade is near unheard of. Then there’s Zendaya Coleman. Few have perfected the transition from Disney muse to respected actor with such grace. Having recently won an Emmy for her leading role of Rue Bennett in Euphoria, it feels like a good time to ask: how has Zendaya avoided the ‘Child Star’ curse?
Zendaya made her name on the Disney Channel, a breeding ground for ‘Child Stars’. Her first major project was Shake It Up, a typical Disney fare of brash and simple-minded comedy. However, she brought a soulfulness and calm to the role that helped ground the show and make it genuinely likeable. Disney saw potential and began to nurture both her acting and music career, giving her lead roles in Frenemies, Zapped and K.C Undercover.
Whilst many child actors have frantically thrown off the shackles of Disney come their 18th birthday, Zendaya demonstrated loyalty and respect for the roles that gave her a career. Her acting in the Spiderman franchise, The Greatest Showman and Euphoria proved her talent, but her tremendous success is arguably rooted in decisions like this. Rather than treating her past roles with embarrassment, she demonstrated her maturity, she proved she was already worthy of them.
Outside of acting, Zendaya’s resume is overwhelmingly impressive. At 24, she is a producer, author, ambassador for the charity Convoy of Hope, businesswoman and was the youngest ever contestant on Dancing with the Stars, placing 2nd at just 16. Her work ethic is inspiring, but more importantly, she has curated a public image of being a genuinely good person. It’s rare to find somebody in the public eye who you can rely on to consistently do good with their platform; Zendaya has done just that.
We are so used to seeing child stars succumb to their own self-importance that it’s hard to believe Zendaya dared to take a different route. Most wouldn’t have stayed with Disney whilst pursuing more adult roles, or dealt with online criticism with such grace, but Zendaya did. Where she really differs from her peers, is that it feels like she was in no rush to grow up. Zendaya grew up alongside her fans and has always interacted with them with a genuineness that feels like you’re watching a friend succeed. Few have made the transition from ‘Child Star’ to happy adult actor, I’m really glad that Zendaya is one of them.
– Georgia Balmer
Feature Image Source: Still via ONE Media // YouTube. Director of Photography: Marcell Rév