After a tumultuous weekend full of non-stop coverage of the heart-breaking hate tearing Charlottesville, Virginia, apart, many might’ve thought the 2017 Teen Choice Awards on Fox would be relatively sanitized of the news. The award show best known for giving teens a chance to vote might’ve liked it if politics stayed off stage all together–which could explain why Miley Cyrus bailed. But those hopes were dashed by several stars who refused to let the night pass without some commentary on current events.
Regular social justice icon Zendaya took the stage after winning Choice Summer Movie Actress and spoke out during her acceptance speech. Rocking a dazzling sequined suit and her big curls, Zendaya eased her way into a conversation about politics, saying, “Right now, I want to talk to all the young people in the audience.” After getting the screaming crowd to settle down and listen, she
“With all the injustice and the hatred and everything that is happening not only in the world but in our country, right now I need for you young people–I need you guys to be educated,” she said. “I need you to listen. I need you to pay attention.” The crowd gave her a big cheer before she continued.
“And I need you to go ahead and understand that you have a voice and it is okay to use it when you see something bad happening,” she said. “Do not let people tell you what you think you should feel.” Zendaya called out all the future world leaders in the room and asked them to take their responsibilities “very, very seriously.”
The oblique references to the tragedy in Charlottesville may have been negotiated carefully with the Teen Choice Awards team. While Zendaya managed to give an inspiring speech without mentioning any of the weekend’s buzzwords, her friend Yara Shahidi wasn’t so coy on the blue carpet ahead of the show.