Continuing to grow from strength to strength, Zendaya will be featuring in A White Lie, a film she plans to co-produce with Reese Witherspoon. Known for acting in Disney TV shows and most recently her cameo in Spiderman Homecoming, Zendaya works as an activist for racial inclusion. She was involved in ensuring her show, K.C. Undercover, had a black family. Now, in her new feature, she is helping to tell the story of the struggles between race and elite education.
“There needs to be a black family on the Disney Channel. A lot of people who aren’t people of colour can’t quite understand what it’s like to grow up and not see yourself in mainstream media,” said Zendaya in conversation with Glamour.
The film is based on the book The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe. It follows the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black woman to graduate from a traditionally exclusively white Vassar College in New York, 40 years before they openly admitted African Americans. During this era, it was a challenge for people of African American descent to gain an education. Passing as ‘white’ due to her lighter mixed-race features, in 1893, Hemmings purposely did not mark her race as coloured in order to be accepted.
There are concerns about the trouble of the story being about passing as white instead of empowering darker skinned women. However, as a story based on historical truth, it highlights the difficulties of the past concerning race and education. In particular, it notes the hardships Hemming faced having to disguise her racial background to be accepted into College.
With an all-female production team, A White Lie is the latest film aiming to improve inclusivity within the film industry, while also aiming to share the stories of those that are often left untold. As more equal and diverse opportunities arise, hopefully, one day we’ll also see empowering stories of present-day inspirers such as Serena Williams and Oprah Winfrey.
Image with thanks to Entertainment Weekly