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Is Amandla Stenberg cooler than Rihanna? Even the Fenty Beauty boss seems to think so!
Fenty Beauty’s first-ever celebrity ambassador Amandla Stenberg is a woman who thrives on making a difference.
She’s not just a talented multi-hyphenate. Amandla, who’s chalked up acclaim and accolades with movies such as The Hunger Games (2012), Everything, Everything (2017), and The Hate U Give (2018), also happens to be an Internet sensation with 2.2 million followers.
The 20-year-old is biracial—her dad is caucasian Danish and mum is African-American—first took Kendall Jenner to task back in 2015 for adopting a black hairstyle.
“When you appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter.”
Amandla’s crusade against appropriation of black culture had begun three months before with Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows, her high school project that went viral.
“Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalisations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves,” she stated in the video.
She went on to work with Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, and Beyoncé. The last was so impressed with Amandla during the filming of Lemonade she told her: “When Blue grows up, I want her to be just like you.”
All this is just icing on the cake. Among other honours, she was listed among Time magazine’s 30 Most Influential Teens in 2015 and 2016, Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2017, and a Next Generation Leader again for Time in 2018.
Proving that giving back is as important as giving voice, Amandla is an ambassador for No Kid Hungry, a campaign by non-profit Share Our Strength to eradicate hunger and poverty the world over. She also supports the Ubuntu Education Fund, which provides educational services to kids in South Africa.
Her name means “power” in Zulu.
And she lives up to her name indeed. She doesn’t condone racism and sexism and has carefully chosen her projects to reflect such beliefs. “It was nearly impossible for me to find roles that felt empowered, that were not victim roles, that were fully dimensional, that didn’t serve any white male plotline,” says Amandla. “So I worked less because I had no interest in doing something that would force me to compromise my own power or just make myself subservient to something I didn’t necessarily mesh with.”
Clearly, Fenty Beauty is that to her and more.
“I wanted to become a part of the Fenty Family because it’s one of the few beauty brands that make me feel like myself,” says the Californian native. “Its whole ethos makes me feel empowered and excited to let different facets of myself shine.”
Amandla came out as gay in 2018.
Before that, Amandla had considered herself fluid, urging others to even use “they” or “them” alongside “she” and “her” when speaking to her. “I don’t necessarily always subscribe to female pronouns just because I don’t think that pronouns are necessarily very meaningful,” she added.
She knows there will be challenges ahead, as she shares, “the continual process of unlearning heteronormativity and internalised homophobia can be difficult, but one of the biggest blessings lies in the magic that comes from having to understand love outside the confines of learned heterosexual roles.”
This is one lady who doesn’t hold back.
“Oh my god, you have boobs!” she gushed out loud after running into Jennifer Lawrence. Both co-starred in The Hunger Games in 2012, when Amandla was just 14.
The outspoken activist takes criticism into her stride: “I recognise that people who respond negatively to what I say aren’t at a place yet where they are able to learn. And I know that that’s not personal. That’s unfortunately a product of society as a whole. And it’s exactly what I’m trying to fight.”
She very nearly landed the role of Wakanda princess Shuri in Marvel’s Black Panther.
Amandla says of the part that eventually went to Letitia Wright: “That was not a space that I should have taken up. And it was so exhilarating to see it fulfilled by people who should have been a part of it and who deserved and who were right for it. I just wasn’t.”
Learn to slay it like Amandla in her first makeup tutorial as Fenty Beauty’s first celebrity ambassador: