The two had a conversation for Teen Vogue in which they discussed some of the obstacles they’ve faced. The actresses acknowledged that they’ve had roles that break the mold of how black women are traditionally portrayed on screen (Stenberg in “Everything, Everything” and Monáe in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures”), yet they realize there is still work to be done.
The 18-year-old told Monáe that the predominately white industry can be a “scary world” to try to figure out. Monáe agreed.
“I’m probably just as scared as you. I actually look to you for inspiration,” she said. “I remember watching your ‘Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows’ video and feeling like, Wow, here is a young girl who is going to be a beacon of hope for not only young black girls but all human beings who are just uncomfortable speaking out and walking in their truth.”
They pivoted to social issues outside of Hollywood, and Monáe asked Stenberg where she was on election night. Stenberg recalled being on the set of “Where Hands Touch,” a film in which she plays a biracial girl growing up during the Holocaust.
“In the scene, my character’s papers get taken away by a Nazi officer and the officer yells in her face, basically telling her that she does not belong in her own country,” she said. “An actor playing a Nazi soldier took out his phone to refresh the news and announced that Trump was president. I was actually seeing this come out of the mouth of an actor dressed in a Nazi uniform. Immediately, I excused myself because I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore.”
She remembered crying and questioning how the United States got to such a divisive point.
“The director, Amma Asante, came to check on me, and she told me that progress is like a coil you have to go down in order to circle back up again. That’s how it’s worked throughout history,” she said. “That’s how it will continue to work.”
Monáe shared that she was on the outskirts of Atlanta on election night. She said that there were parts of that area where the KKK is still active. “After the results were announced, I thought, Am I going to be safe?” she said.
Despite the hatred, Stenberg emphasized how vital it is to practice self-care and remain confident in herself.
“I feel like now is the time to stand tall and feel 100 percent comfortable in my skin even though I’m occupying a space that I know historically wasn’t built for me,” she said.
Read their full conversation on Teen Vogue.