By Joanne Rosa
It’s fitting that Amandla Stenberg’s character in the moving film “The Hate U Give” is named Starr. Amandla felt a great sense of responsibility to tell the powerful story written by author Angie Thomas, which Amandla suggests reading before seeing the movie. The film guarantees to bring tears to the eyes of everyone who sees it, regardless of the color of their skin.
“The Hate U Give” follows young Starr, who’s caught between two different worlds: a predominately low income black neighborhood and a predominately upper middle class white private school. Code switching her language and allegiance was a regular practice for Starr. She never felt accepted in either community. After seeing her friend shot and killed by a cop before her eyes, Starr faces the reality of her situation and finds her own voice in the process.
Amandla is just as strong, determined, and authentic in real life as her character Starr is in “The Hate U Give.” At 19 years old, she actively advocates for racial equality, the LGBTQ community, and intersectional feminism. On the other hand, she’s just a young woman at the cusp of her 20’s trying to live her best life.
Here are 10 reasons why Amandla is everything we want in a soon-to-be A lister in young Hollywood.
Born in Los Angeles, parents Karen Brailsford and Tom Stenberg didn’t want to give their daughter a basic name. They wanted to give her meaning, just like Starr’s father did in “The Hate U Give.” And so, they decided on the name Amandla, meaning power in Zulu. It was a part of an anti-apartheid rallying cry. Amandla likes to look at her name as a prophecy.
After originally coming out as bisexual on Teen Vogue‘s Snapchat, she told Elle she considers herself pansexual. “Bisexual is a word I am not too attached to,” Amandla told Elle. “It implies a dichotomy that doesn’t take into account trans people. So maybe pansexual is more accurate for me.”
What 19-year-old do you know that willingly gets rid of their iPhone? Well, now you know one. Back in March 2018, Amandla told W magazine she was worried about the effects the phone was having on her mental health. “I feel like it’s very easy for your perception of reality to get distorted when you have this device in your pocket 24/7 that you can refresh, like a hyperreality that doesn’t exist. I felt like my life was refreshing Instagram as opposed to refreshing life.”
You can’t tell, but Amandala doesn’t really workout, at least not regularly. Amandla told Cosmopolitan that she hopes to have “some sort of workout regimen” in place by October 2019, “for God’s sake.”
In 2016, Amandla’s high school history project “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows” went viral. The self-made YouTube video on cultural appropriation gained over two million views. This was the same year that Amandla slammed Kylie Jenner for wearing cornrows. So now you can love her more than you already do.
Honestly, who hasn’t had a mild obsession with Leo? Specifically, Amandla was obsessed with young Leonardo DiCaprio. Titanic was one of her favorite movies, so she’s probably just as mad at Rose as the rest of us are. There was definitely room for the both of you on that drifting door, Rose! Amandla believes Leo deserved an Oscar for his performance in “Django Unchained” when he cut off his hand.
Amandla told Teen Vogue that she used to be afraid of being too big and too seen. “I didn’t see myself the way I wanted to,” Amandla shared in 2016. She chemically treated her hair in middle school because she thought it was too frizzy. Amandla finally got her hair cut correctly when she was 16. “When I hit 16, though, I got my hair cut by someone who knew black hair and black curl patterns. That haircut changed the game for me. It brought out my curls in a beautiful way. I learned to appreciate my natural hair texture, and I realized that it was really special if I let it do its thing,” Amandla wrote in an essay for InStyle. Now, Amandla sees her hair as “a true expression of her personality.”
Amandla has a weakness for tough musicians with a heart of gold, but our girl’s making a name for herself in the music industry. Her 2017 single “Let My Baby Stay” has been streamed over three million times on Spotify. “The Hate U Give” features artists from Def Jam, and also includes Amandla’s new song “Always.” Make sure you listen to “The Hate U Give” soundtrack.
We are loving the fact that Amandla actually had a real school experience, and what is any high school experience without going to prom? Amandla asked Jaden Smith to be her prom date, and their coordination was on point.
Oh yes. Amandla could have been Shuri in the historic “Black Panther” movie. She auditioned for the role, but turned it down for a really good reason. “That was not a space that I should’ve taken up,” Amandla told Variety. She wanted the part to go to a darker-skinned actress, and it eventually went to Letitia Wright. “It was so exhilarating to see it fulfilled by people who should have been a part of it and who deserved it and who were right for it. I just wasn’t.”