Updated: September 23, 2020 10:52:29 am
This weekend, 24-year-old American actor Zendaya became the youngest to win an Emmy award for the best lead actress in a drama, for her role in HBO’s ‘Euphoria’. With this, Zendaya has also become the second Black actor to win in the category, after Viola Davis in ‘How To Get Away With Murder’.
Who is Zendaya?
Zendaya started her career as a model for American apparel companies and later transitioned to acting in Disney productions in 2009, along with building a career as a singer.
By 2016, she began steadily diversifying her career. In 2017, Zendaya made her feature film debut as Michelle “MJ” Jenkins in the superhero film ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, which did well at the box office.
Post 2017, her success in films was followed by more fashion collaborations with brands and platforms like Net-a-Porter, Tommy Hilfiger and Lancôme.
In 2019, she landed the opportunity to play lead actress in the Hollywood remake of Ron Leshem’s Israeli TV series ‘Euphoria’.
Later that year, she co-starred in ‘The Greatest Showman’, a musical film, with Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson for co-stars. Zendaya’s portrayal of a trapeze artist in an interracial romance at a time when that kind of romance was taboo garnered positive reviews in the US.
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What is ‘Euphoria’ about?
Similar to the Israeli original, Hollywood’s take on ‘Euphoria’ focuses on the lives of teenagers who experience and struggle with identity, love, self-harm, drugs and sex. Zendaya portrays the character of Rue, who has just come out of rehab, and her life in high school.
Although the series received favourable reviews from critics, last year, an advocacy group in the US had complained about the depictions of nudity and other graphic content, particularly the depiction of statutory rape of a character.
In July last year, ‘Euphoria’ was renewed for a second season.
What does Zendaya’s win mean for diversity?
Over the past few years, Zendaya has openly called out the lack of diversity and narrow beauty standards in Hollywood. In 2018, she had said that her skin colour made her the “acceptable version of a Black girl” in the US film industry.
This year, out of the 19 categories at the Emmys pertaining to performing, 10 were won by Black actors — an increase from previous years. However, the awards received criticism for failing to include Latinix actors and actors with disabilities as nominees in the major performing categories.
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