Yara Sayeh Shahidi (Persian: یارا سایه شهیدی; Persian pronunciation: [jɒːɾɒː sɒːje ʃæhiːdiː]; born February 10, 2000) is an American actor, model and activist. She gained recognition for her starring role as the oldest daughter Zoey Johnson on the sitcom Black-ish (2014–present) and its spin-off series Grown-ish (2018–present). Her film credits include Imagine That (2009) and Smallfoot (2018).
Yara Sayeh Shahidi was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to an Iranian American father, Afshin Shahidi, a photographer, and to mother Keri Salter Shahidi, who is African American (of Yoruba and Fulbe descent) and Choctaw heritage. The family moved to California for Afshin's work when Yara was 4 years old. She is the older sister of child actor and model Sayeed Shahidi and they have a younger brother, Ehsan. Keri Shahidi states the name Yara means "Someone who is close to your heart", the name Sayeed means "Blessing", and Ehsan means "To act as though God is watching". The rapper Nas is their once-removed cousin.
She began her career when she was 6 years old, appearing in television and print advertisements for companies such as McDonald's, Ralph Lauren, Target, GapKids, Disney, Guess Kids and The Children's Place. She frequently worked with her mother and younger brother in various print and broadcast campaigns.
Shahidi made her cinematic debut in 2009, starring opposite Eddie Murphy in Paramount Pictures' Imagine That, for which she received a Young Artist Award nomination for the best performance in a feature film category. She also appeared in the Angelina Jolie action film Salt in 2010 as a next door neighbor. In 2012, she played Chloe Johnson, the daughter of President William Johnson, in the TV series The First Family.
In September 2014, Shahidi starred in ABC's prime-time comedy Black-ish as 14-year-old Zoey Johnson. In December 2014 she won an NAACP Image Award in the category of 'Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy'.
In 2016, she signed to model with New York's Women Management modeling agency, in hopes of providing a platform to see more women of color in diverse roles.
ABC announced in 2017 that Shahidi would be headlining a Black-ish spinoff, titled Grown-ish, on its sister network Freeform. The series premiered on January 3, 2018.
She was ranked one of the best dressed women in 2018 by fashion website Net-a-Porter.
Shahidi is an actor and activist. She founded Eighteen x 18 with social news publisher NowThis, “which will be a platform to encourage my peers to vote for the very first time in our upcoming midterm elections”. Her other organizations include Yara’s Club a partnership with Young Women's Leadership Network (YWLN) of New York, which provides online mentorship in hopes to end poverty through education.
Shahidi’s activism was noticed by former first lady Michelle Obama, who wrote her a letter of recommendation to Harvard University. She was also given the opportunity by Teen Vogue to interview Hillary Clinton in 2017.
Shahidi has publicly supported Jussie Smollett after reports that he faked a hate crime for personal and monetary gain. In April, 2019, at the NAACP Image Awards, Shahidi stated, "I stand with Jussie" after Chris Rock made jokes at Smollett's expense.