Amandla Explains It All: Essential Life Lessons from Amandla Stenberg
After five seasons of early ’90s wisdom from Clarissa, we’ve finally found a worthy successor and their name is Amandla Stenberg. We’ve been low-key obsessed with the non-binary, trailblazing activist/actor since they broke our hearts as Rue in The Hunger Games, but now they’ve also tapped into the black girl magic that comes with being in Beyoncé’s groundbreaking Lemonade gang and have taken to the Internet to keep us woke. For their latest public service announcement, the 17-year-old actor fired up their webcam last week as part of Rookie magazine’s How We Live series to teach us about pansexuality, natural hair, and more. Oh yeah, and they did all that right before getting ready for prom. Seriously.
They’ve been dropping knowledge like it’s hot for awhile now, so we decided to celebrate their latest video with a guide to our favorite life lessons Stenberg has taught us so far.
Learn How to Be Real and Love Yourself
In her pre-prom Rookie video, Stenberg took the opportunity to give a young black girl words of encouragement, urging her to rock her natural hair, after which they spoke out about a wider issue we all struggle with: self-love. “Learning to love yourself is a very tough, continual process. It’s not like you get to one point where you’re like, ‘I’m totally cool with myself. I’m amazing. Nothing phases me and everything’s cool.’ There’s definitely a series of steps and a continual checking in with yourself about how you feel about yourself,” she explained. Whether you’re just starting to feel comfortable with yourself or you’re fully entrenched in the Kanye Loves Kanye stage, all that matters is, Stenberg suggests, is that you stay true to you, and constantly remind yourself of your worth.
Learn to Open Up Yourself to Vulnerability
During a speech for the Oprah Winfrey Network, Stenberg spoke to a room full of adults, with a level of wisdom usually reserved for Gandhi, to talk about authenticity and the value of being your true self. “It takes vulnerability to find strength in your own identity. To me, vulnerability, authenticity, and power go hand in hand in hand,” she said. “When I am most authentically myself, I am also the self that people are more easily able to connect to.” In teaching us to strip away our artificial layers—to, essentially, embrace our love for Kimojis—Stenberg gives us the confidence we need to showcase some vulnerability.
Learn to Make Friends with Your Heroes
In the middle of a nondescript desert alongside Grimes, Stenberg talked up the power of liberating your mind and gave us sage wisdom about friendships. “Most of my icons are my friends. Changing the world…is really an individual thing.” With that in mind, we took a look at our own friend group and determined that most of the people we surround ourselves with are too high to even change the show they’re binge-watching on Netflix, much less change the world. Perhaps it’s time to switch it up, listen to “Real Friends,” and have a field day with the unfriend button, sparing no one (except grandma Ruth).
Call Out Cultural Appropriation
The video that took Stenberg from being a cute actor in The Hunger Games to the queen of clapbacks happened a year ago when she was doing homework for a history class and called out people like Fergie, Christina Aguilera, and Kendall Jenner for putting their hair in cornrows. In Kendall’s case, her cornrows were apparently “bold braids.” She gave the world a scathing history lesson that linked the rise of cornrows by white artists like Igloo Australia to the Black Lives Matter movement, and hasn’t looked back since.
Stay tuned to Milk for more black girl magic.
Original imagery by Kathryn Chadason.