The Age of Zendaya is upon us. The actress, who celebrates her birthday on September 1, has already left her mark on the Disney Channel, the DWTS dance floor, the Billboard Hot 100 and the world of fashion. Now she’s proving she can handle more adult fare with the HBO drama Euphoria.
“There was no strategic plan,” she told The New York Times in June 2019, reflecting on her career evolution. “After shooting The Greatest Showman and Spider-Man, I went back to my Disney show, which is kind of like going to college and then having to go back and do the same grade over and over again. Not that I didn’t appreciate having a job. But it’s like you turn a switch on and do it, and then you get turned off and go home. I wanted more.”
She also faced a steep learning curve, as Euphoria is a far cry from the family-friendly fare of her career beforehand. On the critically acclaimed show, she plays Rue Bennett, a 17-year-old recovering from drug addiction.
“I was really nervous because I wanted to do well. It’s like going from nothing to everything — there were no steps in between,” she told the newspaper. “That’s why people think it’s such a stretch for me to play this character. There’s a lot of people who probably think I can’t do it because they don’t truly understand my personality. And I get it: I’m a Disney kid. There’s a lot to prove.”
Now she’s straddling two demographics, venturing into TV-MA content while still fielding job offers for “the corny stuff,” as she told the Times. “It’s cool,” she added. “I feel like I can do [Euphoria] and still have another world outside of it where I can do family movies and fun things like that. I’m trying to break the habit of using the F-word now because I use it so much as Rue, and in life. I’m about to go on tour for Spider-Man. It’s a wonderful family movie. I can’t be dropping F-bombs.”
Zendaya put the naysayers in their place in September 2020 when she won an Emmy for her work on Euphoria. She wrote via Instagram that July that she was “speechless” when she learned she was up for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
“My heart is just overflowing with love and gratitude. I’m so incredibly honored to work beside the talented people that I get to call family. I am a small piece of a big beautiful puzzle and I’m so proud of all of you,” she continued. “Thank you to everyone out there who’s watched and given our show life, thank you @samlev00 @hbo @a24 for everything and @televisionacad for this beautiful acknowledgment, thank you, thank you, thank you. We out here Emmy nominated y’all!!”
Scroll down to relive Zendaya’s life and career so far.