It's good to be seventeen. No, really, just ask Amandla Stenberg herself. "Seventeen feels good," she tells Asos magazine's Spring 2016 issue (she also appears on the cover). The Hunger Games actress calls the last few years "a magical time" and waxes poetic about what it's like to be young and socially conscious.
"You’re experiencing everything for the first time, feeling the most emotion that you’ve felt in your life. We live in a society where girls are hyper-sexualized, but I don’t feel like me or my friends are victimized by it. We’re learning how to take control of our identities and I’m asserting my gender identity and my sexuality. It’s scary and overwhelming, but I feel empowered, ready to take on the world. I’m surrounded by people who are really changing things by being themselves and that’s exciting," she says.
That sense of empowerment stretches into every aspect of her life. Targeting cultural appropriation, a video she made entitled "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows" has more than two million views on YouTube and she recently broke her silence on her sexuality, revealing that she's bisexual. That's a lot to accomplish in just a few short years, but don't think that she's stopping there. The young starlet continues to be a mouthpiece for social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
"When I say black lives matter, I’m not saying white lives don’t," she says. "I’m just saying that this is a group of people that has been systematically repressed for generations so it’s necessary to shed light on it to undo those wounds. Some people think that it’s trying to exclude white people, but that’s not the point. The point is to uplift voices that have been silenced and that’s a problem in the way we’re treating race."
She continues, "I’m lucky. I can talk about the things I care about and the scariest thing that can happen is that someone says something mean to me from their keyboard thousands of miles away. I think conversation is so healthy and important. Ignorance is not, intolerance is not, closed-mindedness is not."
But one thing not to forget is that, at the heart of it, she's still a teenager who does a whole host of normal, teenage things. Her favorite pastime? Driving around Los Angeles with her friends Willow Smith, Lorde, Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson and actress Kiernan Shipka.
"My friends and I do a lot of driving 'round listening to '80s power ballads with the windows down – 'Time After Time,' 'Forever Young' or the soundtrack to Twin Peaks. We’ll stop to get In-N-Out, keep driving, go to a diner, have some pie, keep driving. Driving around LA has given me some of my quintessential teenage memories."
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(Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)