Yara Shahidi

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Yara Shahidi
BornYara Sayeh Shahidi
(2000-02-10) February 10, 2000 (age 18)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
EducationHarvard University
  • actress
  • model
  • activist
Years active2007–present
RelativesSayeed Shahidi (brother)

Yara Sayeh Shahidi (Persian: یارا سایه شهیدی‎; Persian pronunciation: [jɒːɾɒː sɒːje ʃæhiːdiː];born February 10, 2000)[1] is an American actress, model and activist. She gained recognition for her starring role as Zoey Johnson on the sitcom Black-ish (2014–present) and its spin-off series Grown-ish (2018–present).[2] Her film credits include Imagine That (2009) and Smallfoot (2018). A student at Harvard University, Shahidi has been noted for her activism advocating for female and racial equality and political awareness.

Early life[edit]

Yara Shahidi was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to an Iranian American father, Afshin Shahidi,[3][4] a photographer,[2][5] and to mother Keri Salter Shahidi, who is African American and Choctaw heritage[6][7] The family moved to California for Afshin's work when Yara was 4. She is the older sister of child actor and model Sayeed Shahidi and they have a younger brother, Ehsan.[3] Keri Shahidi states the name Yara means "Someone who is close to your heart", the name Sayeed means "Blessing", and Ehsan means "To act as though God is watching".[3] The rapper Nas is their cousin.[8]


She began her career when she was 6 years old,[9] appearing in television and print advertisements for companies such as McDonald's, Ralph Lauren, Target, GapKids, Disney, Guess Kids and The Children's Place. She frequently worked with her mother and younger brother in various print and broadcast campaigns.

Shahidi made her cinematic debut in 2009, starring opposite Eddie Murphy in Paramount Pictures' Imagine That,[2] for which she received a Young Artist Award nomination for the best performance in a feature film category.[10] She also appeared in the Angelina Jolie action film Salt in 2010 as a next door neighbor. In 2012, she played Chloe Johnson, the daughter of President William Johnson, in the TV series The First Family.

In September 2014, Shahidi starred in ABC's prime-time comedy Black-ish as 14-year-old Zoey Johnson.[11] In December 2014 she won an NAACP Image Award in the category of 'Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy'.[12]

In 2016, she signed to model with New York's Women Management modeling agency, in hopes of providing a platform to see more women of color in diverse roles.[11]

ABC announced in 2017 that Shahidi would be headlining a Black-ish spinoff, titled Grown-ish, on its sister network Freeform. The series premiered on January 3, 2018.[13]


Shahidi is an actor and activist. She founded Eighteen x 18 with social news publisher NowThis,[14] “which will be a platform to encourage my peers to vote for the very first time in our upcoming midterm elections”. Her other organizations include Yara’s Club a partnership with Young Women's Leadership Network (YWLN) of New York, which provides online mentorship in hopes to end poverty through education.[15][16]

Shahidi’s activism has led her to many accomplishments. She had been noticed by former first lady Michelle Obama, who wrote her a letter of recommendation to Harvard University.[17] She was also given the opportunity by Teen Vogue to interview Hillary Clinton in 2017.[18][19]



Year Title Role Notes
2009 Imagine That Olivia Danielson
2010 Salt Salt's Young Neighbor
Unthinkable Katie
2011 Butter Destiny
2012 Alex Cross Janelle Cross
2018 Smallfoot Brenda (voice)
2019 The Sun Is Also a Star Natasha Kingsley


Year Title Role Notes
2007 Entourage Kandace West Episode: "No Cannes Do"
2009 In the Motherhood Esther 5 episodes
Cold Case Meesha Sullivan '91 Episode: "Read Between the Lines"
Wizards of Waverly Place Olive Episode: "Doll House"
2010 Lie to Me Olivia Episode: "Teacher and Pupils"
$h*! My Dad Says Girl Scout Episode: "Pilot"
2011 The Cape Layla Episode: "Endgame"
Family Guy Little Girl (voice) Episode: "Episode VI: It's a Trap"
Rip City Montana Television movie
2012 The Finder Adina Episode: "The Conversation"
2012–2013 The First Family Chloe Johnson 23 episodes
2013 Scandal Young Olivia Pope 2 episodes
2014 Bad Teacher Jalissa Episode: "Pilot"
The Fosters Maddie 2 episodes
2014–present Black-ish Zoey Johnson Main role (seasons 1–3), Recurring role (season 4–present); 79 episodes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2015)
BET Award for YoungStar (2017)
Nominated – BET Award for YoungStar (2016)
Nominated – Teen Choice Award for Choice Comedy TV Actress (2017)
2016–2017 Trollhunters Darcy (voice) 10 episodes
2018–present Grown-ish Zoey Johnson Lead role; 13 episodes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Yara Shahidi". TVGuide.com. Archived from the original on October 2, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "All about Yara". June 1, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c "C.J.: Mother of Minneapolis-born "Black-ish" star is having a good day when there's no eye twitch". Star Tribune. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  4. ^ "Yara Shahidi, [Prominent Iranian-Americans]". Virtual embassy of the United States, Tehran.Iran (in Persian). U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  5. ^ Brother Troy R. Gibson II "Yara Shahidi: A Star On The Rise". Drfunkenberry.com. October 22, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Shams, Alex (2016-06-03). "Yara Shahidi, the Iranian-American Star of 'Black-ish,' Is Breaking Stereotypes On & Off Screen". Muftah.org. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017. Retrieved 2016-12-13. Zoey, the Johnson’s eldest daughter, is played by a sixteen-year-old, Iranian American actress. Born to Iranian father, Afshin Shahidi and mother of mixed African American and Native Choctaw heritage, Keri Salter, Yara Shahidi lived in Minneapolis before moving to California at a young age.
  7. ^ Stern, Claire (2015-04-23). "7 Things You May Not Know About Black-ish Star Yara Shahidi". InDesign Magazine. Time Inc. Retrieved 2017-06-19.
  8. ^ Shahidi on the Fuse TV series White Guy Talk Show, transcribed by "Yara Shahidi Gives the Inside Story on Her Life as Nas' Cousin". BCKOnline.com (Black Celebrity Kids, Inc.). April 10, 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  9. ^ "Yara Shahidi". Young Black Stars. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  10. ^ "Nominations and Special Awards". 31st Annual Young Artist Awards. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  11. ^ a b Okwodu, Janelle (2016-04-19). "Black-ish's Yara Shahidi Is a Model With a Cause". Vogue Magazine. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  12. ^ "Blackish Nominated for Six NAACP Image Awards". Blackish Fans. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  13. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth (May 19, 2017). "'Black-ish' Spinoff Starring Yara Shahidi Greenlit at Freeform". Variety.
  14. ^ Spangler, Todd (2018-04-18). "'Black-ish' Star Yara Shahidi Kicks Off Political-Engagement Campaign With NowThis". Variety. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  15. ^ Seligson, Hannah (2015-11-27). "'Black-ish' Star Yara Shahidi Is a Role Model Off-Screen". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  16. ^ Berg, Madeline. "Meet Yara Shahidi: The 17-Year-Old Actress And Activist". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  17. ^ Rogo, Paula (2017-03-11). "Star Pupil: Michelle Obama Wrote Yara Shahidi ACollege Recommendation!". Essence.com. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  18. ^ "Yara Shahidi Just Asked Hillary Clinton About That Very Uncomfortable Trump Debate". Harper's BAZAAR. 2017-12-03. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  19. ^ Smith, Krista. "Yara Shahidi on Being a Role Model, Attending Harvard, and Continuing Her Activism". Vanities. Retrieved 2018-04-02.

External links[edit]