Amandla Stenberg Is a Voice for the Future
Neo-feminist, biracial, post-gender . . . eighteen-year-old actress and commentator Amandla Stenberg is an inspired, eloquent voice for the future.
“I don’t think gender even exists.” It’s a sunny day in Los Angeles, and the eighteen-year-old actor Amandla Stenberg is sitting under a flowering tree in the backyard of her rented bungalow in West L.A., very much living up to her reputation as the wokest teenager alive. “My sexuality’s very fluid and my gender is very fluid,” says Stenberg, who is petite and cherubic at five feet three, dressed in black denim overalls and a purple-and-white thrift-store shirt, her hair cropped short for her latest movie. “I don’t think of myself as statically a girl.”
Stenberg was already known for playing Rue in 2012’s The Hunger Games when, two years ago, a video she made for a high school class went viral online. Titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” it’s a romping Internet mash-up in which Stenberg delivers a thesis worthy of an American-studies dissertation in four and a half minutes flat: The adoption of the hairstyle by non-black pop stars such as Christina Aguilera and Katy Perry is part of a larger appropriation of black culture that divorces its aesthetics from the struggle that produced them. Narrating on-camera with the confidence of a trial lawyer, Stenberg closes her case with a pointed question: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”
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