Today, Zendaya is most well known for producing and acting in her gritty HBO teen drama, ‘Euphoria’. Though her acting chops have gotten her international acclaim, her career didn’t start out that prestigious.
The emmy-winning actress and producer began her career as a child model for brands like Macy’s, Mervyn’s, and Old Navy. She took an instant liking to performance, acting in her local theater’s productions and joining a hip-hop dance group at only eight years old.
Even from a young age, Zendaya was making connections in the industry. In an interview with teen magazine J-14, Zendaya reminisced about her experience being a backup dancer for Selena Gomez in a Sears commercial.
“That’s a funny commercial because it’s so weird to think that later on — Ross [Lynch] was in it, Leo Howard was in it — and we were backup dancers, we weren’t even the lead kids,” Zendaya told J-14. “It’s funny where things evolved from and it’s cool to start small.”
Zendaya’s Disney Channel Breakout Role
Zendaya’s dance skills definitely paid off. In 2010, the actress and dancer finally landed her breakout role when she was cast as Rocky Blue in the show ‘Shake It Up’, alongside co-star Bella Thorne.
Though many young Disney Channel stars have difficulty transitioning into a more mature acting career, Zendaya did so seamlessly. The actress told Variety that she looks back on her time with Disney fondly.
“The thing is, I am [a Disney kid]. And to a degree, I am grateful for that,” Zendaya told Variety as part of their Actors on Actors series.
“That’s where I started, and I learned so much from that experience.”
After ‘Shake It Up’ came to an end in 2013, Zendaya went on to produce and act in KC Undercover, which also aired on Disney Channel.
Zendaya pivots career to more mature projects
With the release of HBO’s ‘Euphoria’, Zendaya steered her career in a more serious direction. She shows off her acting range with her portrayal of Rue Bennett, a 17-year-old girl addicted to drugs.
The drama follows Bennett’s group of friends as they navigate relationships, trauma, and social media. Zendaya’s raw portrayal of such a complex character led her to win two Emmys in 2020 and another one in 2022, making her the youngest person to win the acting award twice.
At only 26 years old, Zendaya’s career is still flourishing. The Emmy-award-winning actress has already written a book, released an album, produced multiple TV shows, and played the leading role in Netflix’s 2021 film, ‘Malcolm & Marie’. She can also be seen playing MJ, alongside partner and co-star Tom Holland in the recent Marvel Cinematic iterations of Spider-Man since 2019.