*When “Black-ish” star Yari Shahidi says she counts Michelle Obama among her supporters, the girl has receipts.
The 17-year-old is currently applying for colleges, and has revealed to W Magazine that former first lady has written her a recommendation letter.
The two first met when they shared the stage at Glamour’s “International Day of the Girl” event. The young actress, social activist, and founder of a mentoring group for young women has since met with Obama several other times, and even received a “go get ’em, tiger” back rub from her before Shahidi took her AP exams.
“She is very amazing and such a supporter, which is something very surreal to say,” Shahidi told W, adding that wherever she ends up, she plans to double-major in sociology and African-American studies.
“I’ve gotten a lot of questions about if it’s scary to be on a public platform given the current administration and given that I’m a black Iranian,” Shahidi said, referencing the recent travel ban. Her father is Iranian, and she still has family that lives there. “I say that to say, companies that are still supporting individuality—that are still supporting self-empowerment—are so crucial.
“If you look at the history of art and fashion, it’s always been political,” Shahidi continued. “It’s always been pushing boundaries. Midterms will come up and there will be so many of us that can vote. It’s more important, too, to not just vote during midterms, but if you’re of voting age—or even if you’re not of voting age, like I am—there are ways to make changes and be involved, versus this feeling of helplessness because we don’t have any political sway.”
Obama showed her support for Shahidi by writing four recommendations —one of them being to the first lady’s alma mater Harvard, where Obama attended law school. Michelle’s daughter Malia Obama will also attend the prestigious university following a gap year.
Shahidi also plans on taking a year off before starting her first semester.
“I know when Malia Obama announced [she was deferring], she got a lot of slack, but I feel like what’s interesting is I know so many people that are deferring. It’s more than to just roam around or just sit down and stare at a wall, but it will also give me an opportunity to work,” said Shahidi.
I’ve been working more than half of my life and that’s always been balanced with school and all of the other responsibilities, so to have a year to focus on work and to focus on specified interests will be nice before I pick a career and choose what I want to study and my life path.”
Below, Michelle Obama, Yari Shahidi and Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive participated Glamour’s The Girl Project hosted “A Brighter Future: A Global Conversation on Girls’ Education,” a real-time, digital global conversation with adolescent girls around the world in celebration of International Day of the Girl in 2016.