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Zendaya's epic transformation from Disney princess to queen of Hollywood

Entertainment By Mirror
Starting out in Disney film Zapped (Image: Alamy)

She's set to star in the biggest sci-fi movie of the year, is back filming hit series Euphoria and has become the world’s biggest Generation Z celebrity.

So it’s little wonder that Zendaya is fast becoming a household name.

The 23-year-old singer, actress and model has a sideline in activism, calling out racism and bullying and supporting gender equality.

Earlier this month, the former Disney child star was even added to the Oscars voting committee – a rare honour for someone so young.

So far Zendaya has amassed a ­fortune of Sh1.8 billion (£13.5 million), owns a Sh432 million (£3.2 million) house in Los Angeles and has 73 million followers on Instagram.

Yet the star – full name Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman – grew up a world away from the glitz and ­glamour of Tinseltown.

She's set to star in the biggest sci-fi movie of the year (Image: Getty)

She was born to two teachers in Oakland, California, and didn’t have a privileged upbringing.

Zendaya said: “Everything has been a climb, and I’ve been able to take my family and friends with me.

“I came from humble beginnings so I appreciate ­everything more ­because everything I have has been worked for.”

After starting out on the stage, modelling and being a backing dancer for Selena Gomez, Zendaya got her big break in Disney ­sitcom, Shake it Up.

She acted beside Bella Thorne, 22, who went on to star in the films Frenemies and Zapped for the network.

With her father Kazembe Ajamu Coleman and mother Claire Stoermer (Image: WireImage)

But while other young Disney stars went off the rails – ­including Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, Shia LeBeouf, and Miley Cyrus – Zendaya is known in the ­industry for her level head.

And she says her parents – mum Claire Stoermer and dad Kazembe Coleman – kept her on the straight and narrow.

Her dad even quit his job to move to LA with Zendaya to help her break into the industry, while her mum stayed behind and worked two jobs to support the three of them.

She said: “I think I owe a lot of the credit to my parents. Their honesty and frankness have been a big help to me, especially earlier in my career.

“I always heard those tragic stories of successful young actors whose lives fall apart in later years, but my parents gave me a very good education in life and everything else.

“From the beginning, they ­involved me in all the decisions regarding my work and which roles I would be taking, ­because they knew those ­decisions would affect my future life. It was the best kind of ­upbringing that you can have.

“My parents educated me in a very open and honest way, and I am convinced that this is the best way to raise children. But maybe I have an ancient soul guiding me. Who knows?”

With Disney co-star Bella Thorne (Image: FilmMagic)

She added: “I started ­going to auditions with my father. He quit his teaching job to accompany me to Los Angeles whenever necessary and that was a significant ­financial burden.

“As you know, ­teaching is one of the most important but least paid and least appreciated professions.

“My mama, who worked two jobs to keep us financially afloat, was very skilled in looking for low-cost hotels to spend the night before the audition.

“And the next morning I would go back to school. Then, Dad and I found ourselves a small apartment in Los Angeles to make it easier.

"But it took quite some time before I ­became financially independent and could help my parents. I am so grateful and proud to have reached this point and I couldn’t have done it without the total support of my family.”

Zendaya starred in the Greatest Showman

Following Zendaya’s Disney success, roles in The Greatest Showman and Spider-Man: Homecoming followed.

Then, in 2019, she made the switch from Disney darling to problem child when she played Rue, a lying, drug-addicted 17-year-old girl in Euphoria – an American ­drama produced by rapper Drake.

Filming on series two was halted ­because of Covid-19, but Zendaya returned to work last week.

She is delighted to be back – although she ­admits the role is her most draining yet rewarding to date.

She said: “Sometimes I found playing Rue was exhausting but also very cathartic and therapeutic because it’s bringing out and purging feelings.

“I’ve grown a lot working on the series because this kind of character forces you to think about so many important issues and feelings you’ve had.

“You can’t hide when you’re living with that kind of role.”

Playing drug addict Rue in Euphoria was a challenge (Image: HBO)

Zendaya, who is thought to be dating her Euphoria co-star Jacob Elordi, admits she is a “very shy, introverted person” and her mum and dad even had to attend classes for the parents of timid children when she was little. So playing the young rebel can sometimes be a huge challenge.

Zendaya said: “There are times where I couldn’t stop crying. I’m thinking particularly of the scene where Rue and her mother are having this big fight.

“I’m a quiet person by nature and I don’t like shouting. In fact I don’t think I have ever screamed at someone in my entire life.

“And when I had to do it in that scene, pushing myself into that darkness both ­physically and emotionally, it was very upsetting, like something that

crushes your soul.”

Zendaya and Jacob Elordi attend HBO's "Euphoria" premiere (Image: FilmMagic)

Zendaya, who has previously been linked to fellow Disney star Trevor Jackson, American football player Odell Beckham Jr and her Spider-Man co-star Tom Holland, is next due to appear in Dune.

The eagerly awaited science-fiction film – based on Frank Herbert’s cult 1965 novel – is due out in December. As well as being a successful actress, Zendaya is a fully fledged musician.

In her Disney days she ­released several singles and an album and sang with Zac Efron in The Greatest Showman.

The rising star is ­something of a fashion icon too. In 2016, she launched her own clothing line and was named in Net-a-Porter’s Best Dressed list two years later. In 2019, she became a Vogue cover star and was also named Lancôme’s newest ambassador, following in the footsteps of Julia Roberts.

Making movie magic in Spiderman: Homecoming (Image: Sony Pictures)

Her striking Tom Ford breastplate top also turned heads at the Critics’ Choice Awards in January, with Gwyneth Paltrow, 47, who wore it first, posting on Instagram: “Thank God I can say I have something in common with Zendaya.”

Zendaya’s ultimate goal is to “be like Oprah Winfrey” – the talk show host, actress, producer and media executive who is worth Sh270 billion (£2 billion).

With her current credentials, it seems the multi-talented star is well on her way.

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