You might remember actress Amandla Stenberg from her ill-fated role in the first “Hunger Games” film as Jennifer Lawrence’s endearing sidekick, Rue.
The 17-year is stepping out of the franchise’s shadow and using her star power to inspire other black women to embrace their identity.
Stenberg came out as bisexual in a Thursday Snapchat video for Teen Vogue. Stenberg is the subject of the magazine’s February cover story, written by entertainer Solange Knowles about her budding career in social justice activism. A sneak peek on Teen Vogue’s website is titled “How Our February Cover Star Amandla Stenberg Learned to Love Her Blackness.”
“It’s a really, really hard thing to be silenced, and it’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and to mold yourself into shapes that you just shouldn’t be in. As someone who identifies as a black bisexual woman, I’ve been through it and it hurts and it’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable,” Stenberg said, gazing into the camera
“Then I realized because of Solange and (director) Ava DuVernay and Willow (Smith) and all the black girls watching this right now, that there’s absolutely nothing to change. We cannot be suppressed. We are meant to express our joy and our love and our tears and be big and bold and definitely not easy to swallow.”
Her revelation comes at a moment when messages of black female empowerment are permeating pop culture. Essence magazine this week released three covers for the February issue celebrating #BlackGirlMagic, the term used on social media to celebrate black women’s achievements. The different covers feature “Chi-raq” actress Teyonah Parris, Yara Shahidi of the ABC sitcom “black-ish” and social justice activist Johnetta “Netta” Elzie as part of the magazine’s focus on emerging stars “shaping our future.”
Elzie, who rose to prominence during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of Michael Brown, makes a cameo in Stenberg’s Teen Vogue spread. As part of the coverage Stenberg co-produced a “#BlackGirlsMagic video series.” The three videos feature Elzie and other known commodities including model Cipriana Quann and actress Franchesca Ramsey dishing on topics such as hair, things black girls are tired of hearing and “why black is beautiful and powerful.”
It’s standard Stenberg for those familiar with her and her brand of #BlackGirlsMagic. She is an established voice among her contemporaries, having built a following through her use of online media to share messages of social consciousness. “Don’t Cash Crop on My Cornrows,” a video she made for history class on appropriating black culture, became a viral hit.
She followed it up by calling out Kardasian family member Kylie Jenner for sporting the braided look in an Instagram photo in July 2015. Stenberg took her to task for appropriating “black features and culture” while failing to use her influence to direct attention to “police brutality or racism.” Her activism led various media outlets to name her a voice for her generation, raising her profile beyond acting.
Otherwise, she keeps her social media followers entertained with pictures of her besties from the under-21 cool kids set, including Jaden and Willow Smith (children of Hollywood couple Will and Jada Pinkett Smith).
As Knowles notes in her Teen Vogue interview, Stenberg spreads #BlackGirlsMagic simply by being a role model who is proud to be black.
“I really believe in the concept of rebellion through self-hood and rebellion just by embracing your true identity no matter what you’ve been told,” Stenberg said in the Snapchat video. “It’s definitely a process but I’m learning and growing.”
By Emanuella Grinberg