Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg is the latest star to be featured on the cover of Teen Vogue Magazine, where she opens up on everything from girl power to race and hair.
In her interview with Solange Knowles, Amandla talked about the viral success of her video Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows, which she made as a part of a school project.
Amandla said: “I really didn’t think it was going to be so controversial. And then to have the label of “revolutionary” pinned on you afterward felt really daunting.”
“I kind of had a moment with myself, like, ‘OK. Is this what you want to do? Do you actually want to talk about issues? Is it worth it?'” She continued. “There are still moments now where I’m like, ‘Whoa, this is a lot of pressure.’ But it’s worth it because when people come to me and say, ‘I’m more comfortable in my identity because of you,’ or ‘I feel like you’ve given me a voice,’ that’s the most powerful thing ever.”
When asked if she was tired of talking about her video, Amandla said: “Yo — yes! It’s so funny. I have many white friends who come up to me and they’re like, ‘Amandla, so this weekend I’m going to go out, and I was wondering if it’s OK if I could wear cornrows just on Saturday?’ [Laughs] I’m tired of talking about who can have whichever style. Because I’ve said my thing.”
“But I’m not tired of talking about hair in the sense of it being an empowering thing. I know when I used to chemically straighten mine, I did it because I wasn’t comfortable with my natural hair. I thought it was too poofy, too kinky. So for me, personally, when I started wearing it natural, it felt like I was blossoming because I was letting go of all the dead hair and all the parts of me that had rejected my natural state. But, you know, it’s not like that for all black girls. Some have their hair straight because that’s just how they like it, and it doesn’t mean that they accept themselves any less.”
“It was when I was 12 and I got cast in The Hunger Games, and people called me the N-word and said that the death of my character, Rue, would be less sad because I was black. That was the first moment I realized being black was such a crucial part of my identity in terms of the way that I was perceived and how it would affect any line of work that I wanted to pursue. I often find myself in situations where I am the token black person. It can feel like this enormous weight. I have definitely had moments when my hair felt too big or like I needed to make myself… Smaller and easier to digest. And that’s still something that I struggle with now, you know? But I think, honestly, social media has changed that in a lot of ways because in the past you could look only to movies or TV or music or celebrities in order to feel like you had representation. Now you can go on Instagram and you can see a girl who looks like you who is killing the game and expressing herself. Just being able to see that is so affirming.”
You can read more from Amandla’s interview here! Be sure to pick up the February issue of Teen Vogue for Amandla’s full feature.