Yara Shahidi is arguably the coolest high schooler in existence. In case you’ve missed her on ABC’s sitcom Black-ish, she charms as Zoey, a whip-smart teen with a keen eye for style. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree.
On a recent visit to Selfplannedwedding HQ, the 16-year-old star, clad in patchwork jeans and a customized bomber jacket by Alpha Industries, got candid about the hit show, applying to college, and meeting Lupita Nyong’o in the flesh—all during a live broadcast on our Facebook page. Watch the full video below and read on for an excerpt from our conversation.
VIDEO: Black-ish Star Yara Shahidi Tells Us All About the Show
What can we expect the rest of this season on Black-ish?
So much is happening this season, partly because so much is happening in our world right now. There are some great episodes for Zoey coming up, especially addressing her future—she’s a senior in high school, like me—and there’s going to be a new sibling added to the Johnson clan. It’s pretty cool that we’re expanding the family as well as diving deeper into each character’s personality.
Do you have your sights set on college?
I do! Common apps are due Jan. 1; University of California apps are due Nov. 30. I was writing my essay on the plane ride here. That process has started and it’s started for Zoey as well.
Are you thinking East Coast or West Coast?
Well, if you just think about weather—I’m a Minnesotan, so theoretically I should be able to do East Coast … but I’m always cold, so I don’t know if the weather is going to be a problem. I love the East Coast, but I also love California. It really depends on what program I go into. I want to study sociology. And it depends on the show too. They said they’ll work with me as I begin college, so we’re exploring those options right now.
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How is working with Tracee Ellis Ross?
She is amazing—best TV mother ever. Not only is she stylish—she’s really present and here for us. Whenever I have a question or a concern, I can go to her. Everybody loves her. It’s nice to have that kind of trust. She’s been a great guide and showed me how to maneuver set life.
What do you like most about Zoey’s style?
I love that she can be so out there. She goes to school every single day, and every single day she shows up in some crazy amazing outfit, whether it be vintage Prada kitten heels, a Topshop top, or a Target skirt. It’s this mix of things that are extremely affordable and fashion-forward. She has a lot of fun with pattern-mixing and layers—I wear so many layers on set it takes 10 solid minutes to change. This season, [Zoey’s style is] very similar to my style. I range from extremely casual dressed up in frilly, in big dresses. You can see me in a pantsuit, you can see me in jeans, you can see me in a huge dress. I love to play around.
Where do you like to shop?
Zara’s always great for some basics. I love Adidas shell toes. Levi’s has a great collaboration with Off-White that I really appreciate because I’m always in denim, always. A Canadian tux is my go-to. I have so many jeans and so many jean jackets, it’s ridiculous. Brooks Brothers, Madewell, and Red Valentino have really cute sweaters too.
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Some people may not know that you’re related to the rapper Nas. Do you have a favorite one of his songs?
I have a lot of favorite songs, but I’d have to say one of my many favorite songs is “As We Enter” on the Distant Relatives album he did with Damian Marley. That was my theme song in sixth grade. That’s how I entered school.
You recently founded “Yara’s Club” with the Young Women’s Leadership Network, which helps students in low-income communities get access to better education. What’s your best piece of advice for young girls today?
Right now, this nation is in a state of melancholy, and for anybody who is going through personal confusion or isn’t feeling their best, just know that there is a community of girls here to support you—I am one of them. And you’re not alone. I know it sounds cliche, but you really aren’t. It’s easy to feel like everyone is doing perfectly, flying through the world with no care, but when you talk to the people around you, you realize that you’re all going through the same thing in different ways.
Who’s the most interesting woman that you’ve met recently?
Lupita Nyong’o. I met her at a dinner where she was being honored. What was so great about that exchange was that she said she Insta-stalked me. I was like, “I don’t think you understand how much I love you, and I thought I couldn’t love you more.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Watch Black-ish Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.