Zendaya may have been a huge fan of Michelle Obama's since the moment she met her at the White House a few years ago. But her admiration for the FLOTUS has only deepened since, and their shared passion for education advocacy lead to an inspiring conversation about the future at a crucial time.
In an interview for Teen Vogue, Zendaya and Obama sat down to talk about Let Girls Learn, the First Lady's global education initiative that seeks to get the 62 million girls who aren't attending school worldwide into the classroom. She starts by recounting how they met — when Zendaya attended the White House Easter Egg roll, they bonded over their height, and that's when she knew Michelle was "the dopest First Lady ever" — and then shares a bit of her own story. As a kid growing up in Oakland with teachers for parents, Zendaya's investment in education is personal, as she's seen firsthand how education can transform not only her own life, but those of educators and their students, too.
"She would introduce them to the arts, guide them through the language of Shakespeare, and show them the wonders of nature outside city life — all things that they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise," she says of her mom's work. "Watching her was magical; it instilled within me a true appreciation of and devotion to the importance of education. If I wasn’t in entertainment, I’d be a teacher in a heartbeat — guaranteed!"
She goes on to connect that to her work with Let Girls Learn, stressing that she's involved because of her lifelong passion for education: "This is especially true for girls, who are sometimes targets of physical violence for even trying to get an education, and who can do little to improve their lives or communities without schooling. One thing I love about education is that it’s a gift that gives forever. Once you have knowledge you are empowered, and no one can take it away from you. That’s why I love that the First Lady is tackling this global problem."
It turns out that Obama was inspired by her parents, too, and that their dedication to her education is a huge inspiration for Let Girls Learn.
"Even though they didn’t go to college themselves, they worked hard to be able to send us," she told Zendaya. "My dad was a pump operator at the city water plant, and he didn’t earn much money. But he was determined to pay whatever tiny part he owed for my tuition on time every month. So even though he had multiple sclerosis and often struggled just to get dressed in the morning, he hardly ever missed a day of work. His determination and love are an inspiration to me every day."