One of the best ways to get the attention of a group of fifth-graders quickly? Simply mention the name Zendaya. While some less-than-cool adults may falter, stumbling over the correct pronunciation of her name, 'tweens and teens who watch the Disney Channel are well versed with her.
The Disney star and recording artist kicks off the summer concert series at Timberwood Amphitheater at Magic Springs Water and Theme Park in Hot Springs at 8 p.m. Saturday.
"I've never been to Arkansas before," Zendaya says. "But I'm looking forward to performing there and seeing the fans."
Launching the park's 15 scheduled shows, she'll be followed by fellow teen heartthrobs Austin Mahone on June 7 and Bridgit Mendler on July 19.
But let's get back to Zendaya (which, by the way, is pronounced Zen-DAY-a). The 17-year-old, fresh-faced, raven-haired beauty hails from Oakland, Calif. And she is America's melting pot personified.
According to imdb.com, her personal heritage includes a mother, Claire Stoermer, who has German, Irish and English ancestry and a father, Kazembe Ajamu Coleman, who is black.
Born Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman, her given name means "to give thanks" in Shona (a Bantu language native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe).
Young fans were first introduced to Zendaya via TV when she starred in the Disney series Shake It Up and the Disney Channel movie Frenemies.
Venturing into music with her debut album Zendaya, the lead single, "Replay," has reached the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Her hits include "Watch Me," a duet with her Frenemies co-star Bella Thorne that also charted on Billboard's Hot 100.
Zendaya, who describes her "pop with an edge" music as rhythmic pop or pop infused with R&B, says her sights are set on her summer tour schedule which, to date, includes 16 stops stretching from New York to Vancouver, British Columbia.
"Right now, my focus is on touring around the country and meeting with my fans wherever they may be," she says. "I can't wait; I really enjoy interacting with fans and am really looking forward to getting the live feedback that only comes through touring."
Adults less inclined to tune into the Disney Channel may remember her from when she competed on ABC's TV dance competition show, Dancing With the Stars, when, at that time, she was the youngest contestant to appear on the show.
Zendaya, who came in second place during her season, says the experience was a good one but also a lot of hard work.
"I began with hip-hop dancing and that was the only thing I had really done before," she says. "Learning ballroom dancing was completely opposite of what I had been doing.
"It was exciting but it was also very stressful and very time-consuming. It was very nerve-wracking every week to have to perform something different. And with all the practicing, it was a lot of pressure. But I was very proud of how I did on it and all I accomplished."
Zendaya stars in the Disney Channel original movie Zapped!, which premieres this summer.
"It's a fun family movie," she says of the film. "It's about a girl named Zoey who has to move in with her stepbrothers when her mom remarries and has to go to a new school. Her whole world is turned upside down. She's trying to download an app to control her dog and instead it ends up working on boys instead and she uses the device to control them."
She soon begins filming a new Disney series, K.C. Undercover, a spy comedy in which she stars as a high school math whiz who, following in her parents' footsteps, is training to be an uncover spy. Zendaya co-produces a new show set to debut in the fall.
"It recently got picked up and I'm looking forward to having my own show again and I am looking forward to beginning to work on it," Zendaya says.
The teen star, who has not finished high school but has her own official website, zendaya.com, is home-schooled.
"It's a different way of learning," she says, adding that she attended traditional schools until the seventh grade.
As for Zendaya's future, it's wide open with lots of options.
"I have so many things I want to do," she says. "I want to continue doing my music and acting and films and explore other genres in my acting work."
Weekend on 05/29/2014
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