Shahadi Wright Joseph
Photo: Geoff Levy
Shahadi Wright Joseph Talks "The Lion King," Meeting Beyoncé & Being A Positive Role Model
This year was a big one for 14-year-old actor and singer Shahadi Wright Joseph. Not only did she star in Jordan Peele's "Us" as Zora (Lupita Nyong'o's daughter), she also voiced Young Nala (a.k.a. young Beyoncé) in one of the biggest films of the summer, "The Lion King" and released her debut single, "Skin I'm In."
The Recording Academy caught up with the rising talent to learn what it was like working on "The Lion King" and meeting Beyoncé, the other artists she looks up to and who her dream collaborator is (hint: he also worked on "The Lion King"). Check out our full conversation below.
You voiced Young Nala in "The Lion King" reboot. What did it feel like just to be part of such a talented group of creatives and people?
Well, in all, I think that I was really just honored and blessed, and I would definitely want to work with every member in the cast a thousand times. We had a lot of fun recording and you can definitely hear that in the music and in the songs. It sounds really authentic, so I think that's what I love most about it.
You've mentioned in interviews how finding out Beyoncé was playing the role of Nala made you want to work even harder. What did that moment of realization feel like for you?
It was really amazing, and I told myself that I really had to up my game because Beyoncé and I were going to share a role. It was just really exciting, and there was a lot of anticipation because I never knew when I was actually going to meet her. So it was a lot of fun meeting her at the premiere; that was a great opening present. [Chuckles.] Obviously I want to meet her again.
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Soooooo....this happened. Im looking cool on the outside but INSIDE...My Team: @abramsartistsagency @personapr #ryanlevine @dina.joseph @kevinajoseph @sundariwrightjoseph Gown: Custom @miumiu Accessories: Headband @miumiu Studs: @miumiu Shoes: @miumiu Clutch: @miumiu Styled by @kerilhenderson Hair: @sewnatural and @marva_stokes MUA: Phaedra for @fairweatherfaces Mani/Pedi: @miniluxe
How do you feel that learning about Bey drove you as you worked on the role?
I think everybody in the cast tried to keep it in as magical a state as possible. I think that we also tried to put our own twist to it and add our own personalities to it since we do want to make sure people know that there's a difference to both [of "The Lion King"] movies, other than the animation. But I think that we really tried to make it our own.
What was the biggest thing you learned from working with everyone on the film?
I think I learned the most about voice acting because I've never been in a voiceover feature film before, so it was really exciting. And I would definitely want to do voiceovers again, and I think that it's a great way where you get to practice your craft without using your body language. It was a lot of fun.
And right before the movie came out, you released "Skin I'm In," which, if I'm not mistaken, is your debut single. How did it feel to share that with the world?
Yeah, it is. It was really, really awesome. I'm glad that I got to drop it right near when "The Lion King" was opening. I'm so glad for everybody supported me on this entire crazy journey between acting and singing. It was definitely a lot of fun releasing the single.
The song is very positive and self-affirmative; can you talk a bit about the main goal or message that you wanted to give with that song?
The main goal of the song was really to be a great influence for girls who look up to me or look up to young black Hollywood. To help younger kids who are inspired by me or anybody else who looks like me to really just love themselves just the way that they are and they don't have to change themselves for the standard of anybody, really.
I love that. Are there any artists you look up to, who've made you feel like you have a place in music and in film?
Well, I am a huge fan of Normani, and I have a feeling that I look a little bit like her. [Laughs.] But my sister's shaking her head "no" right now. I'm also a big fan of Jorja Smith. I know there's more; Ariana Grande too.
When you were younger, did you ever imagine that you'd be where you are today?
Not at all. I really did not. But with a lot of hard work and determination, I think that I have definitely come a very long way from where I used to be.
That's awesome. What are your biggest hopes and goals right now as a young, rising artist?
Well, I am really excited about being in high school now, but I'm also excited to start applying to colleges. I have some time, but it sneaks up on you. I think that I would definitely want to go to Howard, Spelman or N.Y.U.
Look at my widdle sistah!!!
But, don't get it twisted, her strength runs way beyond the cutenesshttps://t.co/gFnncWsljh
— Shahadi (@Shahadi) October 3, 2019
Do you have any advice for other young people who are looking to get into music but either they don't know where to start or they're struggling to get to that first step?
I would say keep striving for your goals and never give up, because if I gave up, I would not be in the position where I am today. Keep going for whatever you want in life.
What's up next for you? Are you working on new music?
I am. New music will be released soon, so I'm pretty excited for that and for you guys to hear that as well.
Do you have any dream musical collaborators that you would love to work with?
Ooh. I would love to work with Childish Gambino.