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Zendaya explains why ‘fearless’ is the best compliment you can pay her

Turning heads
Zendaya arrives at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards earlier this month.
(Associated Press)

Zendaya isn’t just a rising star. The 19-year-old doesn’t shy away from speaking up against injustice, including using her social media platform to give voice to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, calling out stereotyping (and needless photo retouching) and challenging her generation to get out and vote. The actress, singer, entrepreneur and literal CoverGirl launched into fame as a Disney Channel star, went on to compete on “Dancing With the Stars” when she was just 16,  emerging as the runner-up, and is now working on the upcoming film “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” A champion for embracing a positive body image, she’s the new face of CHI hair care and inspired a Barbie doll in her image, so it’s no surprise that Time magazine named her as one of The 30 Most Influential Teens of 2015.

Here, she chats with us about being called “fearless” and more:

How did “Dancing With the Stars” transform your workout routine?

Being on that show really pushed me to do a lot more than what I thought I was capable of, and showed me what a real work ethic and really hard work is like. It was definitely tough. It was hard on my body but it was definitely worth it. I learned a lot. I mean, honestly, I’m a 19-year-old and I have a 19-year-old’s metabolism so I don’t really have to do a lot of crazy workout stuff. I’m not one of those people who can go to the gym and enjoy it. It’s not my thing. When it comes to working out it has to be doing something like dancing — something fun.

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You’re known for being a chameleon with your look. How do you keep your hair healthy but still have so much fun with it?

I have a closet full of wigs, clips — all kinds of stuff. I try to keep heat off of my hair and find styles, including heatless and protective styles, that I can rock and really learn how to take care of my hair in its natural state. When I do use heat I’ll use a heat protecting spray and take all of the steps to prevent any kind of breakage.

Your book “Between U and Me: How to Rock Your Tween Years with Style and Confidence” was published in 2013. Now that you’re at the end of your teen years, what advice would you give to your younger teen self and teens reading this?

I would say “You will make mistakes.” You know, everyone is going to try to make all of the right choices and I think everybody in the world tries their best to do the right thing but sometimes problems or failures are inevitable, but it’s OK. … You’re going to grow and you’re going to move past it. Everything moves with time. It’s OK to make mistakes. It’s OK not to be perfect all the time.

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You’ve often been described as “fearless.” How can the rest of us get a little bit of that?

It’s really important. It’s not something to be learned overnight — you grow and you get to be more fearless. I don’t think anybody should rush that process. Some people find that [fearlessness] when they’re younger. Some people find that when they’re older.

What advice do you have for those who struggle to express their truth?

No one likes to live a lie. No one likes to pretend. People can pretend and act their way through life but at the end it feels so much better just to be yourself.

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health@latimes.com

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