Yara Sayeh Shahidi (born Feb. 10, 2000; age 17) is an American actress best known for playing Zoey Johnson in the ABC sitcom Black-ish (2014-present) and its spin-off, Grownish (2018).


Shahidi was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Keri Salter Shahidi, who is of African-American and Native American descent, and Iranian-American photographer father Afshin Shahidi.

Shahidi’s family relocated to California when she was just four years old due to her father’s job.


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She has two younger brothers, Sayeed — who is also an actor and model — and Ehsan. She is second cousins with rapper Nas.

Shahidi’s mother said her daughter’s first name Yara translates to “someone who is capable to do something, or someone is so strong and clever to do something hard” in Farsi, the most commonly used language in Persia (modern-day Iran).

On June 6, 2017, Shahidi revealed that she will attend Harvard University.


Shahidi started her career in acting and modeling at the age of 6. She appeared in television and print advertisement campaigns for big corporations like McDonald’s, GapKids, Disney, Target, Ralph Lauren, and The Children’s Place.

She often collaborated with her mother and little brother for her many advertising campaigns.

Shahidi’s feature film debut came in the 2009 Paramount Pictures comedy Imagine That, in which she played Eddie Murphy’s daughter. For her performance, she received a Young Artist Award nomination.

She then played the daughter of fictional president William Johnson in the 2012 sitcom The First Family. The series lasted only two seasons.

In September 2014, Shahidi began starring in the Emmy-nominated ABC sitcom Black-ish as 14-year-old Zoey Johnson, the daughter of a couple played by Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. 

In 2016, Shahidi signed a deal to model with New York’s Women Management modeling agency, aiming to help encourage more minority women to take on a variety of roles.

In late 2017, ABC announced that Shahidi would be playing the lead role in a Blacki-ish spinoff entitled Grown-ish, on its sister network Freeform. Grown-ish premiered on Jan. 3, 2018. Deon Cole, Black-ish series regular, also plays a main role in the spinoff series. Anderson and Ross guest-star.

In February 2017, she attended Essence’s 10th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala. 


In June 2009, Shahidi sat down with uInterview for an exclusive interview about her comedy Imagine That. In the film, Shahidi played the daughter of the character played by Eddie Murphy: a workaholic financial adviser who discovers that his daughter’s imaginative mind helps fuel his professional success.

Shahidi was 9 years old at the time the film was released. She took questions from uInterview.com users about the making of the film.

“Oh yeah, he really made me laugh a lot,” Shahidi said of working with Murphy. “Right when they say action he had just cracked a joke so I’m [holds in laughter] ‘Can’t. Laugh. Now.'”

Regarding the funniest memory she had on set, Shahidi said: “I loved the whole thing but my funniest moment would be making pancakes. I got to make this huge mess, I actually got to flip the pancakes, and I get to burn them on purpose.”

As to how Shahidi landed the big role?

“Well it’s almost like auditioning for a commercial except for instead of getting called in two times or three times, you’re getting called in 12 times or 13 times,” she explained.


Shahidi is 5-foot-3 and weighs 99 pounds. Her Twitter handle is @YaraShahidi, and her Instagram handle is @yarashahidi.

She is not known to currently be dating anyone.

She has a black belt in Korean martial arts called Tang Soo Do, has expressed interest in learning more about world history (possibly even becoming a historian), and has also taken Farsi language courses.

As a child, Shahidi reportedly wanted to become a criminal consultant for the FBI.


“There’s a lack of humanity that goes behind policy change—policies that make being a woman a preexisting condition—and it’s because they aren’t thinking about who that affects, they’re thinking theoretically and tax break and money. And money isn’t human, we are human. The goal of my activism is to bring humanity back into humanity.”

“My full name is Yara Sayeh Shahidi. I am half Iranian, and it’s an Iranian name. Yar—the root of it is Arabic and Farsi, and it means friend; Yara means someone close to your heart. Sayeh is shadow, and Shahidi means witness. So my name is Someone Close to Your Heart Shadow Witness, which is pretty cool. I should be a spy. Shadow Witness should be my code name.”

“What’s so cool about my generation is that being socially aware is ingrained in who we are. It’s almost as though we were born with a debt to society to do our part, to be a part of this peer group that understands pretty immediately the idea that whatever we do has to benefit the greater good of humanity.”

“At Harvard, I got to meet and have dinner with Jamaica Kincaid. Just to have conversations with professors was absolutely amazing.”

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