5 times Zendaya proved to be the ultimate icon, from lesbian heists to trans allyship

Collage of photos of Zendaya

Happy Birthday Zendaya! As the actor turns 26, we take a look at her incredible career and the reasons she’s already proven herself an icon.

From always remaining inclusive in everything she says and does, to wanting to diversify the LGBTQ+ media landscape, her mark on queer representation cannot be understated.

We’ve singled out just five of the times Zendaya was doing the most for the community.

1. Her performance as Rue in Euphoria

Hunter Schafer and Zendaya in Euphoria

Hunter Schafer and Zendaya in Euphoria. (HBO)

No list about Zendaya can start without talking about the role that landed her an Emmy, scored her an executive producer role and cemented her place in queer television history. 

Over two seasons of the hit HBO show, Zendaya has proven her acting prowess playing Rue, a queer high schooler trying to navigate addiction, complicated romance and toxic friendships.

She became the youngest woman and only the second Black woman (after Viola Davis) to win the Lead Actress – Drama Series Emmy award in 2020.

In her acceptance speech, Zendaya said: “I just want to say there is hope in the young people out there. I know that our TV show doesn’t always feel like a great example of that but there is hope in the young people.

“To all my peers out there doing the work, in the streets: I see you, I admire you, and I thank you.”

Her incredible performance in season two may even land her a second Emmy win as she is nominated in the Lead Actress category once again. 

2. Her commitment to telling queer stories


Zendaya. (Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic)

Since first stepping behind the camera fans have been eager to see what projects Zendaya will work on in the future.

Well, back in December 2021 she answered the question on every fan’s lips with the most wholesome and healing answer – she wants to direct a love story between two Black girls. 

Speaking to Interview she said: “The hope is that I’ll be able to, one day, make the things that I want to see. Like a simple love story about two Black girls.

“I don’t want it to be rooted in anything other than just a story about two people falling in love and that’s it. Something simple and beautiful, that leaves you happy and wanting to fall in love yourself.”

If that wasn’t amazing enough she explained the reasoning behind her wish was to give young black girls a coming-of-age story not rooted in trauma.

She added: “Our existence is broad and expansive and beautiful, and to see all the different emotional colours of what it means to be a young Black girl — I would like to see that, because I don’t think I’ve seen many depictions of it.”

We can’t wait to see her vision come to life.

3. That time Zendaya and Anne Hathaway made the gayest jewellery advert in the world

Of course we cannot forget when Zendaya formed an iconic duo with Anne Hathway, and came through for gay women with their Bulgari jewellery advert campaign “Unexpected Wonders”.

In the advert the romantic tension between the two actors was very obvious and soon people were praising it as the lesbian jewellery heist drama we not only deserve, but desperately need. 

What makes the feat even more incredible is that aside from a poetic voiceover from the two actors, the pure queer energy transcending from the screen comes purely onfromeye contact and vibes alone.

The stunning advert caused fans to go into a meltdown to process how iconically gay it was.

As one person Tweeted at the time: “I’m kind of OBSESSED with this Zendaya and Anne Hathaway promo for Bulgari! It feels like a sexy rich lesbian murder drama. Carol II: Carol of the Belles.”

Treat yourself by stopping and rewatching it in all its glory. 

4. The queen of shooting down problematic statements 

Zendaya’s support of the LGBTQ+ community has been recorded for over half a decade, with a tweet back in 2016 going viral in which she defends gay men.

In a Twitter exchange, someone posted a photo of Zendaya using a Snapchat filter with the caption: “She looks like a gay dude wearing makeup”.

Although the comment was clearly meant to provoke, Zendaya showed she had no time for anyone’s homophobia by replying: “Wait….is this supposed to be an insult cause they slay sooooooo…..”

Zendaya is no stranger to calling things as she sees them. 

She previously made headlines after correcting a Vanity Fair interviewer’s gendered question. 

When they asked what she looks for in a man, she promptly corrected them by saying: “What I most like in a person, how about that?”.

And her answer is also super wholesome. “Some people are just good people and you can just feel it,” she said.

“I don’t know how to explain that, but there’s this little spark they have or this little special thing that they have that you just feel safe and happy around them.

“I don’t know what that is, but some people have it, and it’s special.”

5. When she spoke up for trans women


Zendaya on including trans women in our feminism. (Taylor Hill/WireImage)

And if all this wasn’t enough to clue you up on Zendaya’s status as an icon, then how about the time she stood up as an unapologetic advocate for trans women in an interview with British Vogue.

During the interview she was asked what true feminism is, to which she said it has to be intersectional. 

“Women that look like you, women who don’t look like you, women whose experiences are different than you,” she replied.

“That means Black women, that means trans women, that means all women.”

Yes Zendaya! At a time when the trans community is more under attack than ever, using her platform to advocate for trans women is so important and she delivered during this interview. 
And again, happy birthday Zendaya!