Zendaya Opens Up About the Importance of Processing Joy in a Year Like 2020

Even in a year as tumultuous as 2020, Zendaya is hopeful for the future.

The actress opened up about her career-defining year for ELLE magazine’s latest cover story. And though she had many successes to speak on—including her Emmy Award–winning portrayal of Rue Bennett on HBO’s Euphoria and her highly anticipated upcoming film, Malcolm & Marie—she also got candid about how the United States’ divisive cultural and political climate affects her.

“It feels like a very hopeless time, specifically in this country. I know a lot of my peers feel enraged and exhausted and tired of living and growing up in a system that feels like it wasn’t built for us,” said Zendaya in conversation with her Dune costar, Timothée Chalamet. “At this moment in time, it is hard to find joy and beauty in things, and I really think that is important. Right now, we as Black people need to embrace joy and not let it be taken away from us.”

The actress continued, explaining that throwing herself into creative projects and her work has helped her retain her personal joy throughout the year.

“I experience moments of joy when I’m able to create art and be involved in projects that I connect to deeply, whether it be Euphoria or Malcolm & Marie, the movie I shot during quarantine with [Euphoria creator] Sam Levinson. Another thing that gives me joy is seeing people’s responses to my work. With Euphoria, it’s been incredibly moving to see how people connected to what Sam has written. I’ve heard so many beautiful stories about addiction and recovery, and that brings me hope,” said the actress.

Zendaya added that outside of personal fulfillment, witnessing her friends and peers speak out about America’s tangled history with systemic racism and injustice has also renewed her hope that brighter days are ahead.

“I find hope in my peers, the people who are out there on the streets doing the work—people I admire and I go to for advice and information on what’s happening, so that I can make sure I’m using my platform in the most strategic way I can to help,” said Zendaya. “There is so much hope in young people, and when I say young people, I do mean myself—people my own age—but I also mean younger. These really young kids are so smart and have such a clear understanding and plan for how they want this world to change.”

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