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Amandla Stenberg covers Teen Vogue February Issue

by Tasharna Brown-Taylor Saturday, January 9th, 2016

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Amandla Stenberg covers the latest issue of Teen Vogue and she looks amazing.

The 17-year-old Hunger Games actress and activist sat down for an interview with Solange Knowles Ferguson where she spoke about black culture, loving her natural self, acceptance, hair, race and girl power.

Read the highlights from the interview below:

On learning to love yourself:

AMANDLA: “I think that as a black girl you grow up internalizing all these messages that say you shouldn’t accept your hair or your skin tone or your natural features, or that you shouldn’t have a voice, or that you aren’t smart. I feel like the only way to fight that is to just be yourself on the most genuine level and to connect with other black girls who are awakening and realising that they’ve been trying to conform.”

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On going viral and being labelled as “the voice of the new generation”:

SOLANGE: I feel like my introduction to you was probably like that of a lot of people — or at least people who might not have seenThe Hunger Games — via your video on cultural appropriation, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” which was so brilliant! I know that you made it for a class assignment, but in terms of sharing it with the world was there ever a moment of fear before hitting the “publish” button?

AMANDLA:  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?” 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.

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On her friendship with Willow Smith:

SOLANGE: Speaking of friends you are basically living squad goals. You’re close with  Kiernan Shipka, Willow Smith, Tavi Gevinson, Lorde

AMANDLA: Oh, man. Well, Kiernan has been by my side since the beginning. Willow is amazing. I feel like we were just meant to be friends. We were kind of vibing off each other from afar, and then she hit me up and was like, “Let’s hang out!” She has the most magnetic, radiant energy ever. Whenever we hang out we just laugh and wesing and we dance and we go hiking.

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On black hair:

SOLANGE: Does it feel like sometimes you’re just exhausted talking about it?

AMANDLA: 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.

SOLANGE: Yeah, you made it clear in your video. It was so articulate and perfectly put!

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AMANDLA: 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.

SOLANGE: Absolutely. I want to have the freedom to wear a long weave down to my ass tomorrow if I want to, and then wear it in crocheted braids, and then have it so straight that my edges are laid. [Laughs]

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On conforming to fit in:

SOLANGE: So when was the moment that you realized exactly what you were taking on just by existing in this space?

AMANDLA: 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…

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SOLANGE: Smaller.

AMANDLA: Exactly. 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.

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UPDATE- Amandla came out as an bisexual earlier today on Snapchat. The teen said, It’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and mold yourself into shapes 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. But then I realized because of Solange Knowles and 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. Here I am being myself and it’s definitely hard and vulnerable and it’s definitely a process but I’m learning and I’m growing.”

Watch the video here

Read the rest of the interview here

Photo credit- Ben Toms

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