Zoey Johnson, Yara Shahidi's character on "Grown-ish," might be the best-dressed college student that ever lived. She's more than a TV sitcom approximation of a fashionable girl — she's actually wearing capital-F Fashion: Opening Ceremony bomber jackets, Vetements sweatshirts, Gucci loafers, all put together with a taste level and fearlessness beyond her years.
"Zoey has a lot of extra time to spend on her outfits," said Shahidi, with a hint of skepticism, when we caught up with her and her stunning pink Giambattista Valli dress at a party for Marie Claire's Fresh Faces issue in Los Angeles this weekend. We'd asked whether her character, who Shahidi began portraying before she'd experienced college for herself, might influence her sartorial choices IRL, but Shahidi doesn't foresee having the same kind of free time this fall, when she starts her first year at Harvard University. And she's probably correct in that assumption, especially given that her extracurriculars will include activism and starring on a hit TV show (and finding time to hang with her pal Malia Obama, probably). Of course, she already has a plan for how she'll stay chic and comfortable without having to spend too much time styling herself in the morning — a plan that aligns with one of this year's biggest trends: tracksuits.
"I've already started my collection," she said before she enthusiastically began listing off brands: "I have my Golf tracksuit, my Melody Ehsani tracksuit, I have my Elizabeth & James tracksuit, Puma, Adidas, Nike tracksuits, so I feel I'll just rotate throughout the week."
A couple of weeks ago, I met with a fashion design student who was almost certainly overworked with her senior fashion show just weeks away, and yet she couldn't have looked cooler in a black tracksuit and sneakers. I thought at the time, and now know for sure, that tracksuits are the perfect answer to the college to conundrum of feeling compelled to wear pajamas to class while also exhibiting some semblance of personal style.
Though Shahidi claims to almost always wear tracksuits when she's not out at events, she has become something of a fashion and beauty darling, boldly wearing off-the-runway looks (with help from stylist Jason Bolden), covering glossies and working with brands like Tory Burch and Aerie. Could she, like her character, be considering a career that involves fashion? "Possibly. I'm still trying to figure it out," she said. Fair enough — she's only 18. She added that her presence in fashion media gives her a "platform to speak," and that "fashion and media...it's all inherently political anyway."
Of course, more importantly than being well-dressed, Shahidi is also a mind-bogglingly intelligent and articulate activist with a focus on rallying fellow young people to engage with politics and vote. Marie Claire Editor in Chief Anne Fulenwider sees a political future for her. "I think she's going to run for office, I mean I think that would be fantastic, and I think she's got a huge future no matter what she does," she told us at the event.
It's not an easy time to be a young person — or any person for that matter — but at least they're fortunate to have sartorial options like tracksuits, and someone like Shahidi as a role model.