You probably know her mainly as Raquel ‘Rocky’ Blue from Disney Channel’s latest comedy Shake It Up, but did you know that before going on the show Zendaya Coleman was a model?
The 14-year-old actress was a successful fashion model for giant US department store Macy’s and Old Navy, but then decided to follow her dream to become an actress instead.
We decided to catch up with her and find out how she’s finding it, and also what big plans she’s got next!
Q: Zendaya, what made you want to be an actress?
Zendaya: My mum started working at the California Shakespeare Theatre when I was two years old so I have grown up in an acting environment. I was there every night, ripping tickets and selling raffle tickets to the audience.
Q: Wow, every night?! Did that ever get tiring?
Zendaya: I used to beg my mum on school nights to let me watch the rehearsals. It was an outdoor theatre so it was freezing, and I’d sit there shivering at the back with my hot chocolate but I was so dedicated to it. I learned a lot just from watching the other actors and directors.
Q: Did you find it hard to understand all of the stage directions and technical terms without any acting experience of your own?
Zendaya: I knew all the technical terms at an early age and was always asking lots of questions. My friends all thought it was boring but I was glued to the stage and I realised at a young age that that was what I wanted to do with my life.
Q: So Zendaya, we hear you used to have quite a successful modelling career in your early teens. Why did you give it all up?
Zendaya: I did enjoy modelling, I was living in San Francisco and I did a lot for Macys and Gymboree. It was great fun and that is how I got started but I always knew I wanted to do more than just modelling.
Q: You’re from Oakland originally, how did you manage to get to your auditions and castings?
My dad took a sabbatical from his job as a PE teacher to help me with my career, and we started commuting to Los Angeles for castings and auditions. We were driving back and forth from my home in Oakland to LA every week. It was six hours drives all the time. They would call us at 4pm and say they needed me by 9am the next day so we would pack our bags and just go.
Q: Did you easily adjust to the fast pace of your new life on-the-move?
Zendaya: It was tough. But after a year it really paid off when I got the role of Rocky in Shake It Up at the age of 13. That was my big break. I still miss my mum, I don’t get to see my family as much as I want to but I’m doing something I love so it’s not such a big sacrifice.
Q: How would you describe your character Rocky in Shake It Up?
Zendaya: As quite a reserved girl, the goodie-two-shoes, Rocky is always trying to do the right thing and make the right choices.
Q: Would you say there is a lot of your own personality in Rocky?
Zendaya: Me and Rocky are really quite similar. In the meatball episode which was really gross, I put in a part where I said I was vegetarian because I really am a vegetarian in real life. That’s something I believe in very strongly. We decided to make Rocky a vegetarian as well. She gets made fun of for a bit but I’m glad we got to put something of me into her character.
Q: You’ve told us about your character on set but what do you enjoy doing off set?
Zendaya: I adore being on set but when I get the time off I love to write poetry, draw and sketch!
Q: So you’ve succeeded in modelling and acting but where do you see yourself in the future?
Zendaya: I see music in my future. I’m working on my album right now, which will come out soon. Of course I want to do film too, and I love fashion!
You can watch Shake It Up every Monday to Thursday at 4.00pm only on Disney Channel.
This summer, Disney Channel is playing host to a brand new and exciting online contest called Shake It Up: Dance, Dance.
Entries will be whittled down to a shortlist of 10 finalists and visitors to www.disneychannel.co.uk/dancedance will have from 19th September to 2nd October to vote for their favourite performances.
The winners will receive a fabulous money can’t buy prize, including having their winning dance shown on air, a holiday to LA and a once in a lifetime dance master class with Akai.