IT??S A SPRING NIGHT in Hollywood, and I??m driving down Sunset to meet Zendaya when my phone rings. It??s Darnell, her soft-spoken assistant. Though Zendaya is making her movie debut this summer in one of the season??s biggest blockbusters, Spider-Man: Homecoming, she is also still filming the Disney sitcom that planted her in the hearts of little tomboys everywhere?ĦħK.C. Undercover, in which she plays a teen spy who is both a math whiz and a black belt in karate. Darnell is calling to say she is running late; a fight scene is taking longer than expected. ??She??s swinging from a chain right now,?? he explains politely.
When the elevator opens onto Soho House??s lobby, I walk straight into our date for the evening: Zendaya??s father, Kazembe Ajamu, a 64-year-old former P.E. teacher from Oakland. (Her mother, Claire Stoermer, is also a teacher.) Ajamu is tall and sturdy, in jeans and a navy sweatshirt, with thin shoulder-length dreadlocks pulled into a half ponytail.
We??re here because, having by now spent some time with Zendaya (pronounced ??Zen-day-a??), I??m trying to wrap my mind around how a 20-year-old Disney star could be so insanelynormal. There are clues that her father, who moved with her to Los Angeles when she was thirteen, may be a key piece of the puzzle.