If you watch black-ish on ABC, then you know 15-year-old Yara Shahidi plays Zoey Johnson, the coolest teenager on TV. In real life, she’s also pretty cool.
For one, she’s rapper Nas’ blood relative – he’s her cousin! And although she’s making her name as an actress, she’s also a philanthropist who loves science and history. She’s also completed summer programs at Oxford and Harvard and is carrying a 4.75 GPA. As Zoe might say, “Impressive.”
“I’ve always loved history and I’ve always loved school and learning and my parents made sure I did. I was reading at a young age and they figured out what my interest though and fostered those. So when acting came along, it still took second place to my education.”
Shahidi will be at the 2015 Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion to advocated for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education for girls. She’s taking AP calculus next year, so she’s really not just talking.
“Particularly for girls, it’s not a popular area. I’m trying to inspire other teenager to love every part of school. I excel in math but I also love humanities and science. I’m just trying to help other kids learn that school is enjoyable and that it’s not just tests and A-pluses.”
Shahidi says that all the black-ish kids are similarly into education.
“What’s funny is that we’ll have school conversations about something completely nerdy and school related and be so into it.. Marcus [Scribner, who plays her TV brother] and I share the same school trailers and someone will walk in and we’ll be totally hyped about something like Machiavellian policies.”
She’s happy that other kids who are into education and learning have reached out to her via her website and social media accounts to tell her they share her nerdy fascination with learning. Through her character on the show, she may do more for making education cool than any PSA or PBS show has in the past.
“I’ve been inspired that other kids have reached out both who love the show and love education and are ambassadors for what they really believe in. That’s inspiring. I’m looking at colleges soon and to see I have a community of kids my age that are focused on education is great.”
Her favorite episode thus far is “Gift of Hunger” the one where her character, Zoey, and her brother, Junior, have to get a job. She says she enjoyed seeing Zoey become a young entrepreneur and that the episode allowed her character to show a side of herself beyond a social media-obsessed teen.
Shahidi will join her black-ish co-stars Miles Brown and Marsai Martin who play Jack and Diane at the Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion September 3-7th in Orlando, Florida.
Click the link above to hear the entire interview!