Comparisons between the routes of evolution taken by former Shake It Up co-stars Zendaya and Bella Thorne are almost unavoidable. Even in a society that is constantly trying to push for the idea of not pitting women against each other, the differences in how the two stars turned out after going their separate ways is too jarring for some people to resist. Thorne, to be fair, is doing well for herself as far as her career goes, with movies on both the big screen and small screen keeping her in the public eye when her antics as a supposed wild child aren’t nabbing headlines instead.
Zendaya appears to be the more praised of the two, seen as an example of how not to wind up in show business’ trap of outrageous young stardom after time in the Disney machine is served. The fact that she’s still on Disney Channel today probably helps. Or hurts, depending on your view of the network. As of right now, K.C. Undercover is still a thing and regularly airs on the Disney Channel in between shows like Andi Mack and Bizaardvark. It’s not as relatable and charming as the former, but it’s admittedly funnier and less cringe than the latter. Just think Kim Possible meets That’s So Raven and that’s the show we’re dealing with. Nevertheless, it’s the show keeping Zendaya in the Disney fold.
Marvel, however, afforded her the opportunity to represent a different branch of the Disney empire when they casted her in a mystery role for Spider-Man: Homecoming, the web-slinger’s first leading film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon after the previous Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions. The obvious chemistry between herself and new Spidey Tom Holland was played up in every vignette, every interview, every public appearance between the two rising stars. Because of this, the premature assumption she was playing the first POC big screen version of Mary-Jane Watson was a pretty easy one to reach.
When the movie dropped, we finally got answers to her character’s identity. Kind of. Her character’s name is Michelle and her role in the film is admittedly not very large. She basically is to this movie as Kat Dennings‘ Darcy Lewis was to the first two Thor movies: the comic relief who shoots off the occasional amusing one-liner and seems to randomly be there most of the time. To be fair, her deadpan delivery does make for some funny moments sprinkled into the movie. Without giving too much away, there’s a revelation at the end that winks and nudges at the Mary-Jane controversy and Michelle gives subtle hints that she might be into Peter, teasing a future romance. But overall, she was an entertaining part of a widely-praised film.
She wasn’t done with the big screen after this one appearance, however. Next up is the recently-released The Greatest Showman, where she performs alongside a pretty stellar overall cast. The infinitely lovable Hugh Jackman, four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, and fellow Disney Channel alumni Zac Efron round it out, putting Zendaya in good company. After Spider-Man Homecoming, it was only her second big screen movie ever, but before long, her popularity and presence in these two films could potentially lead to more opportunities down the line.
What’s not guaranteed is that 2018 will see her release any new music. She sings on several tracks from the Greatest Showman soundtrack, including an amazing duet with Zac Efron. She also had a guest appearance on a Prince Royce song early in 2017, but she hasn’t released any new original music of her own since 2016’s TLC-sampled, Chris Brown-featured “Something New”. It has been four years since the release of her self-titled debut album and we have yet to hear a follow-up, but Zendaya is a free-spirit, and if her fashion sense is anything to go by, she plays by her own rules and values her inspiration, so if she ever becomes inspired enough to release some new material, she probably will.
Zendaya excels at many lanes of show business. She’s a great dancer, a witty actress, a decent singer, an absolute must-follow on social media, and an undeniable fashion icon. There’s likely more where all of this comes from, but the end result is a promising young star who continues to soar with every endeavour she takes on. Chances are we thankfully haven’t seen the last of Michelle in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and anything she does to remain in the public eye can only do wonders for her career.