Yara Sayeh Shahidi was born February 10, 2000 and is an American actress, model, and activist. She gained recognition for her starring role as the oldest daughter Zoey Johnson on the sitcom Black-ish (2014–present) and its spin-off series Grown-ish. Her film credits include Imagine That (2009), Smallfoot (2018), and the lead role in The Sun Is Also a Star (2019).
She was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Keri Salter Shahidi and Afshin Shahidi, a photographer. Her father is Iranian-American, whereas her mother is African-American. The family moved to California for Afshin’s work when Yara was 4 years old. She is the older sister of child actor and model Sayeed Shahidi and they have a younger brother, Ehsan. Keri Shahidi states the name Yara means in Farsi “Someone who is close to your heart”, the name Sayeed means “Blessing”, and Ehsan means “To act as though God is watching”. The rapper Nas is their once-removed cousin.
She began her career when she was 6 years old, 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.
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 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.
She was one of fifteen women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, by guest editor Meghan Markle.
Shahidi founded Eighteen x 18 with social news publisher NowThis, she wanted it to become a platform to encourage her peers to vote for the very first time in the 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.
Shahidi’s activism was noticed by former first lady Michelle Obama, who wrote her a letter of recommendation to Harvard University. She was also given the opportunity by Teen Vogue to interview Hillary Clinton in 2017.