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‘Black-ish’ Star Yara Shahidi On Her Surprising ‘NAACP’ Win & How She Differs From Her Character

Yara Shahidi is basking in the joy of winning her first NAACP award for her role as the temperamental Zoey Johnson, on the hit ABC show black-ish. The 15-year-old was not expecting to receive the accolade especially since she was pitted against three actresses from Orange Is The New Black and the sultry Sofia Vergara from Modern Family – all considered heavyweights in the TV biz but Yara came out on top.

“For me it was just an honor to be nominated, to be in a category with such amazing actresses who are on hit shows,” she told CocoaFab. “So I think that was the best for me, so I was just cool with being nominated and when they announced all the nominees and they announced who won the category, I was clapping and I was waiting for somebody to go on stage, and my mother tapped me on the shoulder and she’s like, “Yara you’re supposed to go on stage. They just called your name.” So then I don’t actually remember what happened once I got on stage,” she said laughing. “My mother recorded my acceptance speech, and I started to say “oh wow.” That was the beginning of the acceptance speech because I was just shocked.”

There are very few roles on TV where positive images of a black family exists; so this moment is monumental not only for Yara, but her real-life parents too.

“We both were just kind of in awe,” she said about her mom and fellow actress Keri Shahidi. “The first thing she did was she called up my father and she was kind of like “your daughter just won the Image Award!”

READ MORE: #WINNING: ‘Selma’ & ‘black-ish’ SWEEP NAACP Awards

Surprisingly Yara’s character Zoey is nothing like the studious teen in real life. Zoey’s all about dominating the digital space– texting, talking on the phone and getting her Facebook and YouTube likes and follows up. Typical stuff teens are totally into.

“She’s going through this developmental phase that all teens have to face at some point,” she said. “I mean I’m going through it right now,” she admits. “Even though she knows who she is and she’s very confident she still doesn’t know what her role is in her family, or even at school, so basically what she does is she just tries to take control of every single situation that she’s put in, and I think that’s relatable because she’s a dry-kind of distant teen who’s starting to rebel, but still kind of close with her family.”

Yara explains how she differs from Zoey.

“I’m not the kind of kid to follow trends,” she declares.

“I think the one thing is she’s a little too rebellious for my taste,” she says. “We’re kind of the opposite because when it comes to the social media and all of that, she’s always on top of, I’m the opposite. I’m the person that has to be reminded to tweet. I’ll be like “oh yeah I already handled that and then my mother will be like you haven’t done anything in like 48 hours.”

Even though she’s 15, Yara’s interests extend beyond texting and posting. Yara’s also a bookworm with an obsession for Oxford University.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Oxford. I thought like ‘Oh, it would be cool to visit the campus’ or something like that. I remember when I was ten, I thought I could get a head start and write my essay early, and I applied for all the information packets and started writing emails to people. Unfortunately they were never sent. I’ve been stalking the Oxford website for quite some time, and so when I heard about the summer program and what you can actually take toward it, the different classes at Oxford I was like, ‘Oh my goodness I’m going to this.’ Last summer I was finally able to go and it was the best thing ever. I had such amazing professors. We stayed in the dorms, and it was super cool because I was surrounded by people that all were interested in improving in certain areas. It was not all the same. We’re completely different humans, but it’s still cool to see somebody who had a goal to be an architect  and be a science professor or something like that.”

Yara is not new to the acting scene having cast roles in movies like Imagine That, Salt and Alex Cross. She even played the young Olivia Pope in Scandal but her current role on black-ish is exciting for the young actress.

“I think it’s just a great set to be on. Everybody in the crew, everybody in the cast, is opening and warm,” she said. “And then it’s also not that bad that I get to work with Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson and Lawrence Fishburne, because it’s like taking acting classes every single day,” she said complimenting her on-screen family. “Just to watch and learn from them… it’s so amazing to watch.”

Yara’s still waiting to receive her Image award, but the questions is, where will she put it in her home?

“I think it’s going to be in my room, but I’ll have to clean it first,” she said reflecting the sentiment of a typical teen. “I have two brothers. I wouldn’t trust it anywhere else, maybe next to my record player. That would be cool, because I have an area with a record player, maybe next to a typewriter, or next to pocket watches, and then the Image Award.”

We’re sure Yara will need to make even more room for the statuettes in the future.

Be sure to follow on Twitter @realyarashahidi

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