Zendaya Admits She’s Been Nervous About ‘Challengers’ (2024)

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Zendaya News: Actor Admits She’s Been Nervous About Challengers

Despite having been in the public eye for more than half her life, Zendaya isn’t above experiencing prerelease jitters. The 27-year-old Challengers star shared some behind-the-scenes photos from filming on Instagram three days before the movie’s April 26 release and opened up about her nerves.

“This is my first time leading a film in this way so ya girls been nervous but everyones excitement and encouragement has meant the world to me,” she wrote, later adding, “try not to judge the characters too much lol.”

Challengers follows Tashi, a one-time tennis prodigy turned coach who gets caught in a love triangle with her husband and an ex-boyfriend, played by Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor, respectively. “I find them all really likable and charming—and terrible also,” Zendaya told The New York Times earlier this month. She said it would have been easy to make Tashi an entirely unsympathetic character but pushed past that to find Tashi’s humanity. “I think she’s falling apart and you’re watching a woman scramble to pull her life together and keep up the facade and hold all the pain in,” she said.

Although Zendaya has appeared in several blockbuster films, including major franchises like Dune and the Tom Holland–led Spider-Man trilogy, Challengers marks her first turn in a leading movie role.

Jump to:

  • Who Is Zendaya?
  • Quick Facts
  • Young Zendaya: Parents and Siblings
  • Movies and Shows: Euphoria, Spider-Man, and More
  • Boyfriend Tom Holland
  • Music Career and Book
  • Quotes

Who Is Zendaya?

Zendaya is an Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning actor who stars in the HBO show Euphoria and has appeared in the Jon Watts’ Spider-Man trilogy and two Dune movies. The California native became a Disney Channel star as a teenager, anchoring the sitcoms Shake It Up and K.C. Undercover in the 2010s. Zendaya transitioned to movies in 2017 with Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Greatest Showman before leaving her wholesome image behind to portray Rue on the provocative drama series Euphoria. The performance made her the youngest person, at age 24, to win the Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Her latest projects are the 2024 movies Dune: Part Two and Challengers. Zendaya is currently dating her Spider-Man co-star Tom Holland.

Quick Facts

FULL NAME: Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman
BORN: September 1, 1996
BIRTHPLACE: Oakland, California
HEIGHT: 5 ft. 10
ASTROLOGICAL SIGN: Virgo

Young Zendaya: Parents and Siblings

Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman—known professionally by her first name—was born on September 1, 1996, in Oakland, California. “Zendaya” means “to give thanks” in the language of the Shona people of Zimbabwe.

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Zendaya with her parents, Claire Stoermer and Kazembe Coleman, in July 2013

Her parents are Claire Stoermer, a teacher and stage manager, and Kazembe Ajamu Coleman, also a teacher. Although Claire and Kazembe weren’t married when they had Zendaya, they eventually wed in 2008 when their daughter was 12 years old. Their union didn’t last, though. Zendaya’s parents divorced in 2016 after eight years of marriage.

Zendaya has five older stepsiblings—Katianna, Annabella, Kaylee, Austin, and Julien—from her father’s previous marriage. She is also an aunt, though some of her siblings’ kids are close in age to her or even slightly older. “I like to think I’m the cool aunt, I had this whole situation the other day where my little niece had friends over. I’m like, ‘Do you want to hang out? Do you need a ride?,’” Zendaya told British Vogue in 2021. “But she seems to be not too embarrassed for me. Euphoria helps with that.”

Thanks to her mom’s stage managing work, Zendaya spent much of her youth hanging around the California Shakespeare Theater, better known as Cal Shakes. “I grew up in the theater,” she told British Vogue. “I was a little kid watching Richard III.” Claire had taken the job to supplement the family’s income; at the time, they were living paycheck to paycheck. Incidentally, it sparked Zendaya’s interest in acting.

During her days as a student at the Oakland School for the Arts, Zendaya landed a number of roles in local theatrical productions, including for Cal Shakes. She also honed her craft at the American Conservatory Theater and Cal Shakes’ Conservatory program. Zendaya had an interest in dance as well. She was a member of the Future Shock Oakland dance group for several years and studied hula dancing at the Academy of Hawaiian Arts.

“My parents worked very hard to provide me with everything that I could have ever wanted as a child,” Zendaya said. That included supporting her early modeling career. She booked work with companies such as Macy’s and Old Navy and once performed as a backup dancer to Selena Gomez in a Sears commercial. Then, when Zendaya told her parents she wanted to pursue show business full-time, her father quit his teaching job and moved with Zendaya, who was in middle school at the time, to Los Angeles. Kazembe became his daughter’s manager, a position he stills fulfills today.

Movies and Shows: Euphoria, Spider-Man, and More

Shake It Up

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Zendaya at age 13

In 2010, at age 13, Zendaya saw her career take off with the debut of Shake It Up on the Disney Channel. The young actor described the show to McClatchy-Tribune Business News as “a buddy comedy about two best friends who dream of becoming professional dancers and finally get their chance when they get to audition for their favorite show.”

Zendaya and her co-star, Bella Thorne, became tween idols to their young fan base. The songs they performed on the show, including “Something to Dance For,” were hit downloads with their target audience, and their two characters became so popular that they even inspired their own fashion line.

Outside of her first hit show, Zendaya lent her voice to the animated TV movie Pixie Hollow Games (2011). She also made guest appearances on other shows, including A.N.T. Farm and Good Luck Charlie, and starred with Thorne in the 2012 TV movie Frenemies. The next year saw the conclusion of Shake It Up after three seasons.

Dancing With the Stars

Also in 2013, Zendaya made the switch from her former imaginary dance show to the popular televised competition Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with professional dancer Val Chmerkovskiy on the show’s 16th season and competed against fellow celebrities Andy Dick, Kellie Pickler, and Aly Raisman, among others. Her dance background didn’t prove to be much help. As she told Good Morning America, “I’m really used to hip hop dancing... So I kind of have to forget what I know and restart all over again.” Still, Zendaya and Chmerkovskiy made it to the season finale and ultimately became runners-up.

K.C. Undercover

Zendaya next starred in another Disney Channel show K.C. Undercover for three seasons, from 2015 to 2018. The young actor leveraged her star power to land as one of the sitcom’s producers and had a major hand in shaping the show, about a girl who discovers her parents are spies. “The only reason I wanted to come back to the Disney Channel is because there was a lack of diversity at that time,” Zendaya told The Seattle Times in 2017. She successfully requested the series feature a Black family and that her character, K.C., broke from the typical Disney girl archetype. Instead of an artistic type who can sing, act, and dance, K.C.—originally planned as Katy—was a tech genius with a black belt. Zendaya even managed to change the show’s title from Super Awesome Katy.

Spider-Man Trilogy and The Greatest Showman

As she wound down her Disney years, Zendaya made a splash with her first major movies. She appeared in The Greatest Showman (2017) as trapeze artist Anne Wheeler, alongside Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum. The musical biopic also starred Zac Efron and Michelle Williams.

Even more consequentially, Zendaya joined director Jon Watts’ Spider-Man trilogy that began with 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Starring Tom Holland as the titular superhero, the movies saw Zendaya portray Michelle “M.J.” Jones, Holland’s onscreen classmate and eventual love interest. She reprised the role in Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). All three movies were major box-office hits, particularly No Way Home, which earned more than $1.9 billion to become 2021’s highest-grossing film. Their success secured Zendaya’s place in Hollywood for years to come.

Euphoria

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Zendaya has won two Emmy Awards for her performance as Rue in the HBO series Euphoria.

Further distancing herself from her former Disney image, Zendaya signed on for the starring role of teen drug addict Rue Bennett in the HBO series Euphoria. “I knew if I wasn’t a part of this show, I’d be miserable,” she told The New York Times. Based on the turbulent adolescent years of creator Sam Levinson, the show generated buzz ahead of its June 2019 debut for its graphic depictions of teen drug use and sexuality.

“I don’t find it that shocking, to be honest. People will. I kind of accepted the fact that it would be polarizing,” Zendaya said of the show’s provocative content. “Whether people like it or not, it’s real. I’m telling somebody’s story. Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not happening all the time, every day.”

Now two seasons in, Euphoria has become a huge success with the star earning major praise and several awards—two Emmys and a Golden Globe—for her performance. Her first Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series arrived in September 2020, making 24-year-old Zendaya the youngest person ever to win the category. While accepting her second Emmy in 2022, the actor said, “My greatest wish for Euphoria was that it could help heal people.”

A third season of Euphoria was scheduled to return in 2025, but as of March 2024, the timeline has been delayed. Production hasn’t yet begun as the scripts are still being written, according to Variety.

Dune Movies and Challengers

Spider-Man: No Way Home wasn’t Zendaya’s only silver-screen role in 2021. She began with the black-and-white Netflix film Malcolm & Marie in January before lending her voice to the character Lola Bunny in the animated movie Space Jam: A New Legacy that July.

In October 2021, the actor appeared in her latest movie franchise, a remake of Dune directed by Denis Villeneuve. Zendaya played Chani, a supporting character who is the love interest of main character Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) in the sci-fi epic. Her role garnered controversy, as she only appeared in seven minutes of the Oscar-winning film. “I only really had a few days with her, so I kind of scratched the surface but it was so much fun figuring her out,” Zendaya said of Chani in a 2021 interview with Empire. “What does she walk like, what does she talk like? This is her planet, so how does she navigate this world? It was so fun.”

The actor returned as Chani—this time in a larger role—for the movie’s sequel, Dune: Part Two, which was released in March 2024. The expanded part marks a departure from author Frank Herbert’s original book. “Something Denis really found for Chani is allowing her to have her own mind and spirit when it comes to her perception of Paul and what she thinks of him,” Zendaya told ScreenRant. As of late April 2024, Dune: Part Two is the highest-grossing movie of the year. A third movie, based on Herbert’s sequel Dune: Messiah, is currently in development, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Zendaya quickly returned to theater screens as the star of Challengers, which was released in late April 2024. She played Tashi, a former tennis prodigy who becomes a coach for her Grand Slam–winning husband, Art (Mike Faist), and her ex-boyfriend Patrick (Josh O’Connor). Off the court, Tashi gets tangled in a love triangle with the men. “I felt like it was a good step into a more, I guess you could say, ‘grown-up’ role and into that next phase,” Zendaya told Elle in 2023. “It was a little bit scary to take on, which I think is a good feeling. To be like, ‘Ooh, can I do this?’ You could run from that feeling and stay safe and comfortable, or you can go, ‘You know what, f–– it.’”

Boyfriend Tom Holland

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Zendaya is currently dating her former Spider-Man co-star Tom Holland.

Zendaya is currently dating actor Tom Holland. Their relationship is rumored to date back to around when they met in 2016 while filming Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). However, their romance didn’t go public until July 2021 when they were spotted kissing in a car. Holland seemingly corroborated the couple’s relationship in an Instagram post wishing her a happy 25th birthday that September. Zendaya confirmed Holland is her boyfriend a year later after winning a 2022 Emmy Award. She shared in an interview that she “texted her boyfriend” after the win.

The couple has chosen to keep their relationship private. Holland told The Hollywood Reporter in June 2023, “Our relationship is something that we are incredibly protective of and we want to keep as sacred as possible,” the actor explained. “We don’t think that we owe it to anyone, it’s our thing, and it has nothing to do with our careers.”

Zendaya similarly explained their secrecy to Elle in a September 2023 article. “Parts of my life, I accept, are going to be public,” she said. “But also, I do have control over what I choose to share. It’s about protecting the peace and letting things be your own.”

Despite keeping most aspects of their relationship out of the spotlight, Holland did share with The Hollywood Reporter that he turns to his girlfriend for career input. “Zendaya is probably the most honest with me,” he said, adding, “Which I love, ’cause you need that.”

Music Career and Book

Beyond acting, Zendaya embarked on a music career as a teenager. She signed a recording deal with Hollywood Records in 2012 and unveiled her self-titled studio album the following year. It was markedly less successful than her onscreen work, and she has mostly abandoned the craft ever since. However, she collaborated with Chris Brown on the 2016 song “Something New,” paired with Zac Efron on “Rewrite the Stars” for The Greatest Showman (2017), and has contributed to the Euphoria soundtrack.

More recently, she performed with British musician Labrinth at the 2023 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and contributed uncredited vocals on “The Feels” from his 2023 album, Ends & Begins. “I have a lot of negative experiences with the music industry, and being onstage is really the worst,” she told Elle, referencing her Coachella appearance. “I was afraid to open that door again. But I was also like, ‘You can’t run away from this forever.’”

Elsewhere, Zendaya became a first-time author with 2013’s Between U and Me, in which she shared advice for her young fans.

Quotes

  • A lot of people don’t realize their power. I have so many friends who say yes to everything or feel like they can’t stand up for themselves in a situation. No: You have the power.
  • I think it’s always important for kids to see themselves reflected on the screen, and when you’re making child programming you have a little bit of an extra responsibility there.
  • If you’re in a place where you can move the needle, then do it.
  • The older that I get, I just want to be happy and peaceful, and my ambition is more about trying to live a good life.
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Emily Shiffer

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Emily Shiffer has worked as a writer for over 10 years, covering everything from health and wellness to entertainment and celebrities. She previously was on staff at SUCCESS, Men's Health, and Prevention magazines. Her freelance writing has been featured in Women's Health, Runner's World, PEOPLE, and more. Emily is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she majored in magazine journalism at the Medill School of Journalism and minored in musicology. Currently residing in Charleston, South Carolina, Emily enjoys instructing barre, surfing, and long walks on the beach with her miniature Dachshund, Gertrude.

Zendaya Admits She’s Been Nervous About ‘Challengers’ (2024)
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