ByElise Jost, writer at
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Elise Jost

Is there a Fault in Our Stars trend in young adult novels? The next YA adaptation to make it to the big screen is titled Everything, Everything, based on Nicola Yoon's novel about a young teenager with such a fragile immune system that she's stayed at home her whole life — until she meets the cute neighbor next door.

Starring in the lead role of Madeline Whittier is Amandla Stenberg, who famously portrayed the young Rue in the Hunger Games franchise. After completing her high school education, she's embracing acting full time with a major role in last year's As You Are and the upcoming Everything, Everything, Where Hands Touch and The Darkest Minds. At 18 years old, she's already extremely concerned with improving diversity in movies, and hopes films like Everything, Everything can open more opportunities for black girls like her.

'People Really Want To See Black Girls As Leads In Movies'

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly ahead of the release of Everything, Everything, Stenberg described how being black hasn't made her journey through Hollywood very easy, but that things are definitely improving:

"I was raised by an interracial couple. My mom is from the Bronx and she's black and she moved to L.A. as a writer. And my dad is from Denmark and he came to L.A. after he was in the music business for a while. [...] As a 13-, 14-, 15-year-old, you don't see roles for black girls that age. At first the roles weren't available to me, and now they are because people are bored. People are bored and it's the responsibility of studios and the mainstream media to catch up to what people want."

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She considers herself extremely lucky to be able to drive this change forward when it is so desperately needed. Her dedication to promoting a better understanding of diverse identities doesn't start with Everything, Everything either; from various speeches such as the one Oprah Winfrey invited her make at UCLA in 2016 to her viral video project on cultural appropriation titled "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows," she's always been very vocal about the issues that matter to her:

"Diversity is something that people desperately want. I'm lucky enough to be here and see what's happening and take those roles when they do appear. I'm very aware of how special it is that I get to have this experience of creating representation while talking about representation at a time where people really, really want to see black girls as leads in movies."

Movies Don't Necessarily Have To Talk About Race, They Can Speak For Themselves

'Everything, Everything' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
'Everything, Everything' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

It's unfortunate, to say the least, that many still feel aggressively defensive when it comes to topics such as diversity in the movie industry. To Stenberg, that's not necessarily an obstacle. In fact, she hopes that movies can help improve representation in more subtle and efficient ways.

"I'm always thinking about the best way to apply my activism to the world and how to get it out there in a way that's not intrusive and that doesn't target certain people and make them feel like they aren't able to be a part of the conversation."

Everything, Everything isn't a story about race, it's a story about a sick young girl and her desire to discover the world despite the difficult circumstances she lives in.

"I definitely think it's important to balance creating content that speaks directly on race and content that doesn't talk about it all, but it speaks for itself. It can be more powerful to create a film like Everything, Everything and then get distributed to kids in the Midwest who maybe don't live in very diverse communities and get to see this black girl in the lead, you know? In many ways they'll be able to understand that much more than they'll be able to understand an article about representation."

We can only hope the movie's release, on May 19, will prove her point.

Will you go see Everything, Everything when it comes out?

(Source: Entertainment Weekly)


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