If you didn’t already know, Black-ish star Marsai Martin is seriously killing it! At just 14 years young, the 2019 BET Awards Young Stars winner and youngest executive producer in Hollywood for her film Little, is proving that talent and success have no age requirement. Marsai not only has impressive self-esteem for her age, but she has the brains to back it up. In the spirit of this, Marsai is empowering young women who are interested in science, technology and math (STEM) by hosting ComEd’s Icebox Derby on August 3!
In its sixth year, ComEd furthered their fridge recycling program by creating the Icebox Derby STEM competition in which 30 young women from the Chicago area form teams to transform recycled refrigerators into electric and solar-powered race cars. This competition fosters their interest in STEM while also helping to support their future with a $1,500 scholarship reward.
BET caught up with Marsai Martin on her upcoming hosting duties with the IceBox Derby competition, self-confidence gems and the next ‘youngest’ title she wants to take on!
BET: How did you got involved with ComEd’s Icebox Derby, and why is it important to foster young women's interest in STEM?
Marsai Martin: Well, what actually got me intrigued was it being in Chicago, which is like kind of where my family is, too. That's like where my dad's side is. So, to go back there and actually be at home, it's actually very comfortable. Especially doing something that means a lot to me. And I'd never really been to one before! You know, I love go-carting, too.
The fact that a female-empowerment situation is actually building stuff to create great activities is actually pretty bomb. So, I’ve never been to one before, so I was actually pretty interested in that, too. And I'm always down for female empowerment and just inspiring young girls to just be themselves and be comfortable in who they are and express it however they want to.
B: In your own schooling, did you enjoy science, or are you good at it?
MM: Science was actually my favorite subject for the longest time. When I hit the high school line, it just went downhill from there because everything gets harder the more you go up the grades. My favorite subject is now English, probably, because I'm better at that now, but I feel like science has always intrigued me.
B: You have such great self-esteem for someone your age. A lot of girls are just developing that, and you're doing it in the limelight. Who or what experience did you learn that from?
MM: Of course my people who boost up my confidence every day are my parents. They’ve been through everything with me ever since I came onto this earth! They have definitely boosted my confidence. Then to add to that are my friends, my best friends and my family from far, from close, from any part of the earth. They've always been with me. So they've always boosted my self-esteem.
B: What lessons in self-esteem can you pass on to the IceBox Derby girls or any young women?
MM: There's so many lessons that I’ve learned. I feel like everyone usually sees me just being myself. I feel like something I go through like every single day is to not put so much pressure on myself. Because literally nobody in this world is perfect and they don't need perfection, but they just want you to be real. So that's like a lesson that I've been learning for like the longest time now.
B: If you weren't acting or involved in the entertainment industry, what would be your dream job?
MM: My dream job? OK, I've thought about this for a while! I wanted to be a chef. But the only thing I know how to cook is Eggos! But my whole family can [cook]. I like soul food and, like, Thanksgiving is always my mom's [thing]. Just everything you can name, they can probably succeed at. I have probably the best chefs in the game in my family, in my genes. So I think that's something that I would like to do to pass down, the legacy of our food.
B: So we're going to look out for Chef Marsai?
MM: Maybe. If I can upgrade from Eggos, but we'll see!
B: We absolutely love you on Black-ish. How does the real you compare to your character, Diane?
MM: I feel like with me and Diane, we've been through like a lot together. I think everyone knows since she was, like, little, like season one to season three, she was bad, that she was possessed and stuff. But I feel like the more she's grown, she’s understood the place that she's in. I feel like everyone has seen her develop and have a good heart, basically! And she actually shows her true colors, actually shows the real Diane, and actually seeing the stuff that she's going through other than her just being the bad, sassy, witty kid of group.
I feel like seeing her grow actually helped me, because I basically grew with her. Now she's older, so I can't even imagine what she's going to do for season six. But to actually be a part of it is pretty amazing. So Diane and I have in common just us growing and us figuring out life.
B: So you've already conquered being the youngest executive producer in Hollywood at age 14 for your film Little, what "youngest" title would you like to conquer next?
MM: I think it'd be like the youngest billionaire or trillionaire, you know? I feel like there's so many titles that you could do with, like, the youngest whatever. I don't know. I feel like the youngest trillionaire would be one of them!
Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)