Having the opportunity to pick the incredibly wise, mature and fun brain of Yara Sayeh Shahidi, was as great as all-of-that just sounded. This talented 17 year old is one of the stars on the hit show Black-ish. She’s finding her voice and taking that platform, to a level many of us wish we could digest as teenagers. While Miss Shahidi was on her way to London for a quick 36 hour trip, she chatted with me on the lessons that Black-ish has given her. The beauty of having two momma’s— a TV mom, and her super supportive mother. Plus, Yara was honored for the Essence Black Women In Hollywood Next Generation Award in which we had a chance to catch up post interview at the 10th annual Gala. Being able to take-in Yara’s speech, in person was far beyond what you could imagine. To echo the words of many of her colleagues and friends, I too am so excited to see where her talents take her. She stands with grace and power all while not shrieking down from her truth within. And, this is only the beginning. Never forget to follow the loudest voice that waits inside, the time is NOW!
Mm: I was immediately drawn to the fact that you are very vocal, involved and passionate about what’s going on in the world. I believe my whole role in media is to use it for good so when I notice others embracing their platform for positive purposes, I just love it. How do you keep yourself in the loop and educated with whats going on and remain super busy with your work? There is so much coming at everyone all the time now.
Yara: Yes, there is definitely a lot of news thrown at us at any given moment of the day. I try to make education my primary focus. I’ve learned that it all falls into place, so much of my acting was inspired by the education my family instilled in me. Along with my love of history and because of this connection we are able to have with one another beyond our cultures, religion and ethnicities —gender and sexuality. This idea of how beautifully different we are has kind of crafted this want or need to try and aide in conversations and actions that help in achieving equality. There are a lot of people that do fantastic work really low key for years before Black-ish and before everything that happened. I was going on service trips and but Black-ish gave me more of the platform to talk about it. The fact that I have the chance to help activate and inspire others in my age range, I am truly grateful.
Mm: I loved how on your instagram, I am not sure if you saw this but you posted a picture a few weeks ago. Someone wrote a comment to it that said, “I love your work, thank you for believing in our society today and putting your heart out there so that it can inspire others. We are the same age and we believe in the same things other people our age don’t even bother with women’s rights and DAPL or anything at all so thank you Yara”! I thought that was the sweetest thing and such a real comment.
Yara: It is crazy the amount of support I have gotten it does make me feel fortunate the fact that a lot of what I do is very supported by my peers people have been great supporting me on face book and twitter and you know that was unexpected. I know the core of the community is socially active people but I feel like it was a firm foundation when I was able to understand how many of my friends and people around me wanted to be as active and involved in their community as well. So, its like we all now have this sense of support.
Mm: What are some lessons that you have learned along the way within the Black-ish journey?
Yara: One thing, I feel like I have learned along the Black-ish journey… there are a couple of things— I’ve learned a lot. I think first and foremost Black-ish gave me a way to identify myself. In many ways, I am Black-ish being half Iranian, half African- American and being proud of both sides, there is this over arching feeling that can really affect your mind especially when working in this field not knowing how to fully identify being multi-cultured. I feel like me growing up in a multi-cultured home has been such a fantastic upbringing and experience. Being on a show like Black-ish has really helped explain just how we process culture within the household. As someone who identifies with black culture and other cultures around the world from my upbringing— Black-ish has allowed me to find my voice. It’s also taught me how to receive love.
Mm: How so?
Yara: In that whether its at your school, your job and even as an actress, I feel like you are in a very fragile box to use your voice. And, as someone who is really discovering who I am within what I do, it has really made me appreciate all the love that I get. Coming from a place where I feel safe or loved further allows me to do my best. I’m 17 so legally, I don’t need a guardian on set but my mother is there with me everyday. So much of that is not because she has to be but I just feel her love and support. That feeling that she brings allows me to make Zoey happen. Her presence just brings me so much peace. And, the presence of Tracey and Anthony and all the cast— we have all become family. Just all the support that we get is incredible, when people walk up to me and say I love your show means something, it means so much. It means that they took some time out of their life or whatever they are doing to support you.
Mm: That’s incredible and so is the opportunity of you taking the time out to chat with me. I thank you so much. Congratulations on your Essence Next Generation Award.
Yara: Thank you so much! I appreciate your time as well.