Seventeen-year-old scholar, philanthropist and actress Yara Shahidi stars as popular teen ‘Zoey Johnson,’ an ambitious, technologically infatuated high school junior in the multi award winning ABC comedy series Black-ish. Since the series debuted in September 2014, Yara has been awarded an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Supporting Actress” in a comedy series, nominated for a Teen Choice Award, and is the recipient of a 2016 Gracie Award for Female in a Breakthrough Role. Shahidi is definitely one of Hollywood’s most heralded young talents as she continues to use her platform to empower and inspire others.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Shahidi spent the early part of her childhood in the heart of Minneapolis, where she enjoyed annual visits to the state fair and assisting her grandfather with the family’s Persian Rug shop. Her father is a successful cinematographer, and her mother, a well- acknowledged commercial actress. The young star actually received her start alongside her mother, appearing in several international commercial and print campaigns. Her first major film came when she was offered the opportunity to audition for the role of ‘Olivia Danielson’ in the Paramount film Imagine That, opposite Eddie Murphy. She quickly took to the role of the creative and happy-go-lucky daughter to Murphy, bolstering her love of acting.
Shahidi went on to appear in television series such as ABC’s In the Motherhood with Cheryl Hines and Megan Mullally, CBS’ Cold Case, Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, FOX’s Lie to Me, and FOX’s The Finder, to name a few. Shahidi also maintains recurring roles on the hit ABC series Scandal as the ‘young Olivia Pope’ and as ‘Maddie’ on ABC Family’s The Fosters.
Shahidi’s extensive film roles include Sony Pictures’ Unthinkable, as the daughter of Samuel L. Jackson, Columbia Pictures’ Salt, opposite Angelina Jolie, Summit Entertainment’s Alex Cross, as the daughter of Tyler Perry, and the Weinstein Company film Butter where she starred opposite Jennifer Garner.
Not only is Yara equally committed to scholarship and acting, she recently launched “Yara’s Club”, a partnership with The Young Women’s Leadership Schools (TYWLS) in New York. Yara’s Club is a bi-monthly digital meet up for Yara and students to discuss societal issues, self-improvement and higher education. Furthermore, Yara served as the spokesperson for DoSomething.Org and 3M’s “Science Sleuth” campaign, which raised funds for classrooms in need of science and technology resources in Minnesota and St. Louis. The young star has been spotlighted in The New York Times, Variety’s Youth Impact and Next Big Thing issues, and was named #3 under Celebs to Watch for DoSomething.Org’s 2016 Celebs Gone Good list.
A junior in high school, and accelerated for her age, Shahidi is currently in the early stages of college preparation, with plans to visit elite institutions such as Barnard, Brown University, New York University and Harvard (again). In the summer of 2014, Shahidi studied abroad at Oxford University in England, where she enrolled and excelled in humanity courses. A lover of Greek Mythology, history and public service, Yara maintains a 4.60 GPA while filming 35+ hours a week on set and spends her free time reading classic novels, rock climbing and traveling with her parents and two younger brothers Sayeed and Ehsan.
"Yara was absolutely incredible! Our board and the audience were extremely impressed with how poised, articulate, and confident she was, especially for someone of her age. Her remarks also aligned perfectly with the conference's theme and purpose. Overall, we were extremely grateful and pleased that she was the keynote speaker for the conference. "- Georgetown University