I’ll never forget the second time I met Zendaya. It was in the press room after the 2013 American Music Awards. I had already chatted with Ariana Grande and was waiting for an influx of other big names: One Direction, Taylor Swift and Rihanna to name a few.
The fellas of 1D headed straight to Jimmy Kimmel’s cameras where they taped a skit with Kimmel’s sidekick/security guard Guillermo. I had chatted earlier in the night with both Harry Styles and Niall Horan, so I wasn’t expecting them to stop by again. Rihanna, who Bill Maher presented with the first ever “Icon Award” that evening, walked in to the photo area. Swift was the show’s big winner; she made the rounds before giving me a few minutes of her time.
Towards the end of the night, as Rihanna was heading out of the press room flanked by her entourage and security detail, a then-17 year-old Zendaya was walking in the opposite direction.
The teenager, nee Zendaya Coleman, can recollect what happened next “vividly.”
“(Rihanna) stopped. She gave me a hug and she was like, ‘I love you girl,” an enthusiastic Zendaya recalled when I brought this up to her recently. “She was so positive, so nice.
“It’s so cool for people like her, who obviously are…incredibly successful, empowering women, and on top of that she just stopped to say hi to me. She didn’t have to do that!”
The kindness and humility shown by the “Diamonds” singer certainly left an impression on Zendaya that she now strives to pay forward.
“My thing is, no one will ever catch me not being nice to people,” Zendaya explained. “I don’t ever want somebody not to have a good taste in their mouth about when they met Zendaya or how they felt when they met me.
“I like for people to leave me feeling positive.”