Actress Zendaya is on a mission to color White Hollywood roles with her Blackness. In a candid interview for the September issue of Marie Claire, the 21-year-old admitted she frequently goes after roles written for White women. Daya snagged the role of Mary Jane in Spider-Man: Homecoming, a role fronted by White women in the past. Luckily, the production crew behind the movie were already open to diversity.
“I didn’t know that they were going to be more diverse in their casting,” Zendaya said. “I didn’t know that I was walking into a situation where they were already breaking the rules. You get so used to having to break the rules for people.”
The former Disney star revealed that diversity in casting calls were far and few between throughout her career. So, she would walk into the room whether she was wanted or not.
“There was a lot of not getting the audition that I wanted and often going out for parts that weren’t written for a girl who looks like me and just saying, ‘Hey, see me anyway,’ until the right thing stuck,” she said. “Anytime it says they’re looking for white girls, send me out [to the audition]. Let me get in the room. Maybe they’ll change their minds.”
It is important to hear her perspective, because it’s often assumed that racially ambiguous women can walk into any room and be received by Hollywood. But at the end of the day, Black is Black. And even though she may get more opportunities than her darker skinned sisters, she is still subject to discrimination. Along with fewer roles for people of color in entertainment, Zendaya also grapples with the scrutiny WOC receive for their career decisions.
“What my white peers would be able to get away with at this point in their career is not something that I will be able to do,” she said. “I don’t want to jeopardize it at any point because I am not allowed the room to mess up.”