There are two conflicting philosophies that I love: “Everything happens for a reason,” as well as “you can change everything that you have control over.”
Week-by-week you grow with your character and it’s an interesting challenge.
I’m lucky; my parents have never said to me, “You’re a kid, so you just don’t know.” They say, “How can we discuss the world and learn from these events together?”
Part of why history is so important in my life is because it brings you an awareness that everything isn’t new. It gives context to what’s happening right now. History is cyclical but circumstances and technology change. So when social justice topics come up, they’re not new. They’re just being covered more. We have more ways to record it now.
I like to be in control of my body. Also, I love getting into character and exploring a different aspect of who I am.
Intergenerational support is crucial. I feel like generations give up on each other. If you’re Gen Z, you’re like, “Gen X is never gonna get it.” If you’re Gen X, you’re like, “Those Millennials are such idiots.”
What modeling taught me at a young age was how to say “no,” which is something girls – we’re not always good at saying “no.” We want to be nice, and then we forget to look out for ourselves. There have been moments when I was on a modeling job, and it was the most fantastic thing in the world. And there have been moments where I’ve realized, “Okay, I’m ten years old, and I’ve spent the past six hours outside in the rain.” It taught me how to be specific about what kinds of projects I wanted to do, and what kind of work I wanted to do.
I try to preface everything with “this isn’t new.” Because most social movements have happened before and I get that. Nothing I’m doing is new.
No matter how cutting-edge Hollywood may seem, it is still delayed in how it views people: If producers do not perceive me as an Iranian girl, then I cannot play an Iranian girl. If you aren’t perceived as a full black girl, then it makes it more difficult to play a black girl on TV.
I feel like there’s no need to put on a heel that’s too high. There’s nothing cute about wobbling. There’s nothing cute about not wanting to dance or walk somewhere because you’re in pain.
So much of my work is as Yara, not as a character. If you’re attacking my work as a philanthropist or activist, you’re attacking Yara. But because of “Black-ish” and this national audience we have, I get to have a larger or louder voice.
When you’re aware, from a young age, of how something plays in public, it makes you a young entrepreneur, whether you like it or not. I call most teenagers ‘young entrepreneurs’ because from a young age we’re aware that our social media is building our brand. And if, when you’re 13, you’re concerned with building your brand, then “like” disparities matter.
There are so many times in life when you have to suppress what you’re feeling. A lot of kids have to deal with that in a school environment: You’re not allowed to be happy, sad, depressed, over the moon. Being an actor not only do I get to play an angsty teen, but I get the support that I need to be Yara.
I really love hip hop. My cousin Nas came out with an album Life Is Good, and I love that album, but I also love Maroon 5.
When you go on your phone to check what time it is, you get so distracted. It happens to me every day. ‘Oh, I just wanted to see what time it is, but now I’m magically on a panda video.’ This is the easier way, but it’s also a part of your personal style. It ends up becoming a part of who you are, and representing what you love.
I try to use social media as a tool for good. Fortunately I can say that social media has treated me pretty well. I’ve been exempt from a lot of the mean comments. Of course it happens now and then. It’s funny because let’s say a rude or off-putting comment comes in, rather than ignore it, I’ll talk to that person and there are so many times I’ve gotten apologies, like “I totally understand, I’m with you.”