By Diedre Johnson
On March 18, 2013, a 16-year-old Zendaya Stoermer Coleman stepped onto the ballroom floor of the 16th season of Dancing with the Stars. The youngest ever contestant at that time, she made an instant impression with her professional partner, Valentin Chmerkovskiy, earning the highest score of the night with their contemporary routine to OneRepublic’s anthemic “Feel Again.”
As the weeks went by, fans thrilled to her command of the jive, the samba, the Argentine tango, the foxtrot, and the cha-cha. But dancing was nothing new for Zendaya, who had loved doing it since she was eight, starting with hip-hop troupe Future Shock Oakland before becoming a backup dancer in a Sears commercial with Selena Gomez and a performer with preteen pop cover band Kidz Bop. Although she and Chmerkovskiy earned perfect 10’s across all three of their finale dances, Zendaya came in second on the weekly show. But she didn’t let it dampen her spirits. “I was happy that I made it that far and I think that’s the most important thing to take with me,” she told MTV News.
One other thing she was taking with her was the exposure she got from the appearance. Dancing had given her an opportunity to reach an adult audience on a major prime-time network show. Although she was still working on Disney projects — her series, Shake It Up was ending — the tall, pretty teenager was looking to move forward. She was already a fixture at premieres and award shows, but Zendaya’s public commitments increased, and as they did, she switched from wearing trendy teen clothes to upscale designers such as Emanuel Ungaro and Vivienne Westwood.
Proving her Kidz Bop experience wasn’t a fluke, she signed with Hollywood Records in 2012 and released her first album. Simply called Zendaya, its first single, “Replay,” reached No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video has garnered more than 208 million views. But, acting and singing weren’t the only things that held Zendaya’s interest. Fully aware that she was fast becoming a role model, she published a self-help book called Between U and Me: How to Rock Your Tween Years with Style and Confidence. “I hope this book will help girls through the tougher parts of the tween years and help them appreciate the fun parts,” she told Business Wire in 2013.
Yet the singer-dancer-actress-author was already moving past her tween years and blossoming into a more mature talent. Her age and rising level of fame attracted a new line of moneymaking contracts with well-known companies such as headphones maker Beats by Dre, beauty brands CoverGirl and Lancöme (for which she was named a global ambassador in 2019), and designer labels Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, and, more recently, Valentino and jewelry powerhouse Bulgari.
And when the company that produced her own line of clothes, Daya by Zendaya, couldn’t fulfill orders in late 2017, she cut ties and set up a way for customers to have their complaints addressed directly. “I take these matters very seriously and value my fans who have supported DxZ,” she wrote on the brand’s Instagram account in early 2018. “I am no longer affiliated with the company that was operating DxZ, but I will personally ensure that each and every outstanding order and issue is resolved.”
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