She's been acting since she was six years old.
Everyone loves a good romantic movie. What could be better than settling on the couch with some popcorn, candy, and your bae? While most people enjoy the classics like Casablanca or Gone with the Wind, there’s another genre people can’t get enough of: young adult romances. And they are often based off of books.
Such is the case with the upcoming movie The Sun is Also a Star, which premieres on May 17th. The movie is set in modern day New York City, where two strangers cross paths and fall in love.
However, the film adds in an additional component that many individuals around the country are facing right now: immigration and deportation. When Daniel Bae (played by Charles Melton) meets Natasha Kingsley (played by Yara Shahidi), the two have to navigate and deal with her family being deported.
Though the movie stars Charles Melton, who is known for role as Reggie Mantle on Riverdale, as well as the legendary John Leguizamo, we’re curious about the other star of the film: Yara Shahidi. But just who is Yara Shahidi? Here are five things to know about this young actress’ career and personal life.
1. She’s from Minnesota.
Her family moved to California for her father’s job when Shahidi was just four years old. Her mother is of African and Choctaw descent, while her father is Iranian-American. She has two younger siblings: actor and model Sayeed, and brother Ehsan.
According to Shahidi, “I lived a very atypical childhood with two creative parents — my mother is a commercial actress, and my father is a cinematographer.” After moving to California, she began acting.
2. She’s quite a smart young woman.
When applying to colleges, she got some help from her mentor, Michelle Obama, who wrote her a letter of recommendation to Harvard. Shahidi later announced she would attend Harvard in the fall of 2017, joining Obama’s own daughter, Malia, in her studies at the prestigious university.
While appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Kimmel asked her, “I heard you got a recommendation letter from the First Lady, from Michelle Obama... How did you get that?” to which Shahidi responded, “Um, hard work.”
3. She’s acted since she was young.
Her first roles were appearances in commercials for McDonald’s, Target, GapKids, Disney, Ralph Lauren, and The Children’s Place. She eventually made the move to the small screen, starring alongside Eddie Murphy in Imagine That, for which she received a Young Artist Award nomination.
In 2010, she appeared in Salt, which starred Angelina Jolie, and in 2012, she joined the cast of the television series The First Family. But her breakout role came when she began starring in Black-ish as Zoey Johnson. She also starred in the Black-ish spin-off, Grown-ish.
4. She’s an activist.
Her activism is aimed towards advocating for female and racial inequality, as well as raising awareness in politics. Michelle Obama has noticed her, aside from her letter of recommendation, and Shahidi also had the opportunity to interview Hillary Clinton for Teen Vogue in 2017.
She’s involved in Yara’s Club, which is a partnership with Young Women’s Leadership Network of New York, providing “online mentorship in hopes to end poverty through education.” Shahidi also founded Eighteen x 18, which, according to her, was “a platform to encourage my peers to vote for the very first time in our upcoming midterm elections.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair, she expressed appreciation, saying, “It’s amazing to have this platform to help make a difference.”
5. Nas is her cousin.
Not many people can say they are related to celebrities, but in addition to being an actress and activist, she can add that to the list. According to Shahidi, she wasn’t aware her cousin was so famous. “I didn’t know that a lot of people listen to him. I thought that he just knew a ton of people,” she revealed.
“I think what was always weird to me is realizing that he was famous. In my head I was like, ‘He’s a great rapper, and he’s pretty good if I say so myself.’ I would [talk to] people and whenever it would come up in a conversation I was like, ‘Oh yeah, you might have heard of him. Um, my cousin’s Nasir, um... Nas.’ And they’d be like, ‘Oh, I have.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s so cool.'”
Samantha Maffucci is an associate editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.