Gen Z is blazing a trail, on the red carpet and beyond
Pinned to the top of Rowann Blanchard’s Twitter page is the following tweet: “I I believe in my generation. I believe in girls. I believe in women. I believe in people of [colour]. I believe in LGBTQ+ community. I believe.” An actress (she starred arred in the Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World) and nd social media star (she has 5.1 million and countingunting followers on Instagram) who sits front row at shows like Chanel and Coach 1941, Blanchardchard is also an outspoken activist (she spoke about gender inequality in youth at the UN Women’smen’s annual conference in 2015)… And she is only 15 years old.
Yes, she’s just in her mid-teens—proof f thatth t GenG en Z-ers don’t just spend their entire day posting selfiesfies on Instagram. Members of Gen Z, usually defined as those born in or after 1995, grew up in a world of continuous updates and constant connectedness.s. They can effortlessly sift through the unending g barrage of information and zoom in on the issueses that matter to them. And thanks to the ease of technology, they are able to connect with other r like-minded youths around the world who are passionate about the same issues, no matter how niche they might be.There are many words you can use to describe Gen Z, but apathetic is not one of them. hem. In fact, the inverse is true.To describe them in their own words, this generation is #woke.
Case in point:This year’s Teen Choice Awards included, uded, for the first time, the Choice Changemaker award. Blanchard’shard’s best friend, Black-ish actress Yara Shahidi, 17, was a fellow llow nominee. Shahidi is actively involved in initiatives suchch as Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn, and was accepted into all of the colleges she applied to—complete with haa recommendation letter from the former First Lady, no less. ess. She will be going to Harvard in 2018 and, naturally, plans to major in social studies. She told Rolling Stone magazine, “At the crux of [my major], at the crux of acting and at the crux of everything I do is a desire to understand humans—[and to become] active in a way that touches anybody or even activates anybody.”
Zendaya, 20, another nominee, is one of the most popular young actresses today, with 44.1 million followers on Instagram. Her acceptance speech upon winning the award for Choice Summer Movie Star: Female for Spider-Man: Homecoming included this shoutout: “Right now, I need you guys to be educated. I need you to listen. I need you to pay attention. And I need you to understand that you have a voice and it is okay to use it when you see something bad happening… Because we are the future leaders of the world.” Unlike their predecessors, who were mostly content to be pretty faces and/or clotheshorses, today’s crop of young celebrities each have something to say and are more than adept at using the platforms available to them to make their voices heard.Take Amandla Stenberg, 18, for example: In 2015, the actress posted a video she made with a classmate for history class on Tumblr, titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows”, where she discussed the appropriation of black culture by mass media.The video promptly went viral, and kick-started multiple dialogues on the topic across websites and social media. Stenberg is also involved with Art Hoe Collective, an online movement for artists of colour to showcase their work; and has collaborated with Stranger Comics on a ser ies of g raphic novels exploring themes like race and religion—the latest edition, Niobe: She is Death, was released in May 2017. Racism, religion, politics and beyond… These youths are not afraid to touch on controversial issues. In fact, for some, like Paris Jackson, the ability to make a difference through social media, and their own awareness of the influence they wield, is exactly why they have chosen to embrace their celebrity status. She told Harper’s BAZAAR US earlier this year,“Plenty of times I’ve thought about not doing anything in the public eye and having my own private life.Then I started seeing how everything in the world is going.And I feel like each year it’s getting worse... I know there are a lot of people who would feel very blessed to be in my position, so I want to use it for important things.” Jackson shares with her 1.8 million Instagram followers “messages of peace and love and equality”, including her views on women’s rights and human rights. “I have a lot of ideas, but I’m still trying to figure out the right way to do it. I mean, I’m 18. I can’t have it all together, but I do have a plan.” Clearly, she has her A-game on—not bad for a generation that’s right at the end of the alphabet. ■ Send me your comments on Instagram: @neonwatermelon