From Julia Roberts to Jennifer Lawrence, Hollywood is known for leading the ‘it-girl’ phenomena.
In 2018 the Queen Bee of showbiz looks a lot different in 19-year-old Amandla Stenberg.
Not only does she have undeniable talent, a dedicated fan base, her celeb friendship circle and the potential to dominate awards season, but she’s got a firm grasp of social and political change, along with a massive Instagram following and passion for humanitarian work.
Having starred in The Hunger Games and Everything, Everything, the teen who considers herself an ‘intersectional feminist’ hasn’t shied away from social justice activism and contributing to the multi-facted conversation surrounding diversity.
In 2015, at the age of 16, she famously called out Kylie Jenner for cultural appropriation in sporting cornrows.
“When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter (sic),” she wrote at the time.
She was also named Feminist of the Year by the Ms. Foundation for Women that very same year, before appearing in Beyonce’s Lemonade music video the next.
Later the actress revealed Beyonce had told her she wanted her daughter Blue Ivy to grow up to be just like her.
At this point we could end the article here, but there’s even more that cements Amandla’s Queen Bee status.
In 2016 the biracial star came out as bisexual in a Teen Vogue snapchat video in a bid to inspire black women to embrace who they are.
“It’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and to mold yourself into shapes that you just shouldn’t be in,” she told the magazine at the time.
“As someone who identifies as a black bisexual woman, I’ve been through it and it hurts and it’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable.”
Earlier this year she clarified it took her two years to realise she’s not bisexual, but gay, and made headlines when she admitted she ‘walked away’ from a Black Panther role as she’d be a “bi-racial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I’m the same color as everyone else in the movie”.
She’s now taken on the lead role in The Darkest Minds, a sci-fantasy film drawing parallels to US President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration policy.
The movie, directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, sees children with superpowers removed from their families and placed in concentration camps.
Amandla admits the film is incredibly ‘relevant’ right now, with children being separated from their families by the American government as part of Trump’s immigration policies.
“I thought it was really cool to see this story about kids having to stand in their strength and power and learning how to use it against a government they don’t believe in,” she tells Be of her initial reaction when reading the script.
“That felt really relevant. We couldn’t necessarily predict how relevant it would be because we went into production way before Trump was elected in the States but it’s become increasingly, increasingly more relevant as time passes.”
Leading by example, Amandla is keen for more strong women of colour to take on major roles in cinema.
“I think it’s the most important,” she tells Be. “Something that excited me so much about The Darkest Minds is that this is a type of series or a type of book you would assume is written white.
“So I think it was a special and intentional choice in making this cast diverse and it felt very refreshing to me because I have not seen myself or someone like me in these types of roles before.”
And as for what she’d like Blue Ivy’s generation to take away from her new film, Amandla says it’s all about ‘strength’.
“I think I’d want them to take away that they don’t need to be afraid of their own strength,” she says.
“They shouldn’t allow anyone to make them feel small or compromise their authenticity.”
The Darkest Minds releases in Australian cinemas on 16 August.
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