Yara Shahidi is an actress, model, activist and breakout star of ABC’s Emmy- and Golden Globe- nominated comedy series “black-ish.” She stars as popular teen Zoey Johnson, an ambitious, technologically infatuated high school student. Last spring, Freeform announced the “black-ish” spin-off “grown-ish” starring Shahidi which will explore Zoey’s transition into adulthood as well as issues facing both students and administrators in the world of higher education.
Since “black-ish” launched in 2014, Shahidi has been awarded a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress, a Gracie Award for Female in a Breakthrough Role and, most recently, highlighted on TIME Magazine’s annual 30 Most Influential Teens list on behalf of her television contributions and humanitarianism. 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. Shahidi 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 “The Finder,” to name a few. Shahidi also guest starred on hit series “Scandal” as the young Olivia Pope and as Maddie on Freeform’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.
As a young scholar, Shahidi has combined her love for education and empowerment through the formation of 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 comprised of high school students that discuss societal issues, self-improvement and higher education. A STEM advocate and technology enthusiast, Shahidi served as a spokesperson for DoSomething.Org and 3M’s STEM campaign which raised funds for classrooms in need of science and technology resources in St. Louis and Minnesota. Her love for STEM also led her to the Obama White House to participate in STEM initiatives, including the White House Science Fair where she co-hosted several integrations throughout the event. In addition to academics and service, she has been an advocate for women’s issues, diversity in media, girls’ education and, most recently, worked with the United Nations Girl Up initiative. Shahidi has been spotlighted in The New York Times, Variety’s Youth Impact and Next Big Thing issues, and was named number three on the Celebs to Watch for DoSomething.Org’s 2016 Celebs Gone Good. The standout teen was awarded the Daily Point of Light Award from the Points of Light organization in Detroit, honored at Essence Magazine’s 10th anniversary Black Women in Hollywood Awards and honored with the BET’s Young Star award at the 2017 BET Awards.
Shahidi recently graduated with honors from The Dwight School in New York and will attend Harvard University where she will double major in sociology and African-American studies. A lover of Greek mythology, history and public service, she spends her free time reading classic novels, rock climbing and traveling with her family. Shahidi resides in Los Angeles with her parents and two young brothers.
"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
"It was amazing! Yara is just magical."- Syracuse University
"It went GREAT! Yara was a joy to work with!"- University of Illinois