Career-wise, Zendaya has pretty much done it all. On top of starring in and producing one of Disney Channel's biggest shows ever, K.C. Undercover, Z has landed roles in two huge films (Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Greatest Showman on Earth), along with inking a record deal, designing her own fashion line, and starting her own Zendaya app. Whew!
But even as amazing opportunities have come her way, Z has always spoken out on behalf of others, whether she's raising awareness of the water crisis in Michigan and the Black Lives Matter movement, or marching on Washington for women's equality.
So in a very Zendaya move, she's now partnering with Verizon's #WeNeedMore campaign to bring technology and immersive hands-on learning to students in underserved communities across the country. The hope is that a more diverse wave of students will enter STEM fields and build brighter futures for themselves - and the world. Check it out:
Seventeen.com sat for a Q&A with Zendaya to learn more about her personal connection to the campaign - and how she's using technology to shine a light on issues that matter most to her.
What were your main reasons for getting involved with the #WeNeedMore campaign?
It's something that I directly I connect to because it deals with children, education and technology. It's something that my mother - a teacher who served in an underprivileged school with very little funding or resources for technology - did on her own. I really wish there had been a program like this when she was teaching in that school, because there are so many kids in need.
What makes the #WeNeedMore campaign special?
A lot of people glamorize being famous - an athlete or a singer. And that's awesome and if you want to do that, sure. But a lot of kids don't realize there are other options - that it's possible for them to be an engineer or a sound technician. There are a gazillion different jobs out that the are creative, interesting, and different, and not every kid has to follow what they see in the media as cool jobs. Cool jobs, to me, are very different. So this is just opening their eyes and allowing these young people to have access to these resources so that they can see themselves in a different light.
A lot of people glamorize being famous - an athlete or a singer. But a lot of kids don't realize that there are other options.
How will you be working with Verizon to help students in underserved schools?
What they're doing is getting technology into those schools. It's a program that allows kids to have it in their hands so they explore it, use it, touch it in a tangible way. It's a different, more creative way of learning - because the same way doesn't always work for everyone. When my mother was teaching, she didn't have a program like this. She implemented and brought tech into her school on her own, and it really helped her students. It helped them to learn how to use movie-editing software and put together projects in ways beyond writing an essay. There are so many ways to educate and to learn in this era, and we should take advantage of that.
You just started your own app, which must have been a learning experience for you, too. Did your experience with the app deepen your connection to this campaign?
I learned that there are so many different jobs and pieces that kind of work together. Sometimes the technology sounds easier than it actually is. Like I'd say, "Can you make this?" And then an actual team of people would have to sit there and create it. It doesn't just appear from thin air, and I think that's super cool. I don't really know how it all works, but there's a great team that does that. And I have someone filming right here, right now for the app. He'll go through all the footage and it'll be sent back to the team and they'll do all these edits, like add music, special effects, and whatever you can think of. And then it somehow magically appears on your phone. I sit there and I literally ask for the moon and the stars. Like, I want this,this, this, and this. And they're like, OK, we'll make it happen. And then they somehow make it happen. I think that's so cool.
What have you enjoyed most about working on this endeavor?
I think it's another level to my career. In the technology age, you have to be interested and learn how to use it for positive things and to grow - or be left behind. Of course you can use an app to sell things, and that's cool if that's what you want to do. But I also like to use it as a platform to do things I feel are important. I think in many ways, we have a responsibility to use the technology we have for a good cause.
I think in many ways, we have a responsibility to use the technology we have for a good cause.
How does tech help you speak up for what's right?
The cool thing about social media now is that you can hold your own press conference whenever you want. You can give a speech whenever you want to get your point across. I feel like there's a responsibility to use that for what is important and to shed light on what is happening in the world. I mean, the stuff that I am seeing on Twitter everyday I can't even fathom or get though my skull, you know what I mean? So it's like, I try my best to be one of those positive markers and use technology as a positive platform.
Tell us about your experience at the Women's March.
It was amazing - I was literally part of history. I know many people out there felt compelled to get off their couch and go out there and be a part of something, even if they didn't stay the whole time. Just to show up and be there means a lot to the movement and that what we're trying to do and accomplish. As powerful as one voice can be, a million together is more powerful. As long as we continue to work together and work with each other, we can continue to cause change.
As long as we continue to work together and work with each other, we can continue to cause change.
One change people are fighting for is getting more girls involved in the STEM fields. Did that play a role in why you got involved?
Yeah, I was just talking to my mom about this yesterday. It's time for everyone to have equal opportunities, and that means no matter what your economic class, no matter what race you are, what gender you are, you should have the same chance at success as anybody else. I think that's what this is about - opening a doorway for students who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to learn about tech.
What would you like girls to know about getting into technology?
I would encourage girls to embrace new programs like this one. But my number one piece of advice is to use tech and everything that comes with it with care and responsibility. Because there are so many positive things that come from technology, but also so many negative things. So make sure you're part of the positivity and part of the good stuff coming out of it.
There are so many positive things that come from tech, but also so many negative things. So make sure you're part of the positivity coming out of it.
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