Yara Shahidi gets our Mic Drop superlative in our first-ever #MGTop8. The #MGTop8 highlights fearless changemakers that are making an impact on elevating Muslim women’s voices. To view the rest of our #MGTop8, click here.
“Media weaves an international narrative that is often the touchpoint of a person’s first interaction with a concept or idea.”
This is the kind of quote you’d expect to see on someone’s Pinterest board, credited to some old white philosopher in a moment of profound thought, right? Well think again. This provocative sound-bite is quoted from a rising half-Black, half-Iranian young actress with a passion for academia. Oh, and she’s only 18.
Ladies and gentleman, we present our #MGTop8 Mic Drop superlative to none other than the young and glorious Yara Shahidi.
Recognized on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list at the ripe age of 17, a member of the main cast of “Blackish” on ABC and now lead star of the spin-off “Grownish,” Yara has still managed to find a point of equilibrium between her two passions: acting and education.
And even though she just celebrated her 18th birthday, Yara has notoriously used her platform in profound ways to stand up for other marginalized groups, including the Muslim community. Yara Shahidi is living, breathing proof that young people can be advocates for change and being a public persona doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the resistance. She’s spoken eloquently on religion, immigrants rights, and even nuanced takes on the Iranian protests from early this year.
Her thoughts on the Muslims’ representation in the media at the Points of Light forum were spot on: “If your only interaction with the Muslim faith and community through the depiction of the heinous acts of terrorists, a natural assumption may be that Muslims equal terrorists.” She’s consistently vocal on why it’s so critical that the media be inclusive of all narratives surrounding a marginalized group, not just those that go along with stereotypes and schemas.
Yara hasn’t been shy in calling out the flaws of her own industry either, especially with regards to on-screen representation and inclusivity. Blackish was a cornerstone movement for African-American representation in entertainment, and Yara has continuously advocated for more equality and fair representation when it comes to role distribution.
“Good, bad, or indifferent, TV helps to define our collective reality. And if a child grows up never seeing themselves represented as successful or as the hero, then they are the anomaly if they succeed and the expectation if they fail.”
Her wisdom doesn’t stop at pop-culture, though. Yara has also founded Eighteenx18 to push young millennials towards more political engagement, and is encouraging people to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.
Yara is the perfect example of someone standing up for something because that’s what is fair, regardless of any direct impact on her life or popularity. As a young Muslim woman, I see a piece of myself in Yara Sayeh Shahidi, and that is an amazing thing.
Yara’s love for scholarship, film/television, and social justice for all cements the idea that being widely loved doesn’t necessarily mean being passive. Yara has more to offer in this world than just her beauty and impeccable acting skills. She’s outspoken — and it’s so refreshing to hear a young celebrity harness so much passion for learning. She acknowledges education as the key component for growth. And she’s inspiring young women, like me, to pursue truth in all its forms: through personal goals, excellence, and justice.
“I’m really into history and understanding past political movements, learning about those people who’ve made my literal existence possible, who have paved the way for me to thrive within the world. It wasn’t by accident that I am living here and living freely,” she wrote in an essay for I-D. “There are so many movements and moments and monumental things that have happened in our world that have allowed for our collective identity to expand. We need to continue to push ourselves to be more inclusive and understanding of all people.”
Keep on slaying Yara. We’re so here for it.