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Why is “Challengers” a milestone in Zendaya’s career?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.


Many people know Zendaya for some of her Disney Channel roles over the past decade when she began her acting career. She debuted on the 2010 sitcom Shake It Up as Rocky Blue, a talented dancer who shows off her skills on a TV program with her best friend CeCe Jones (Bella Thorne).

Two years later, the Californian actress made her first appearance in the movie Frenemies, where she played the geek girl Halley Brandon, and in 2014 she also starred in another feature film, Zapped as Zoey Stevens.Zendaya’s last project on Disney Channel was in the TV show K.C Undercover (2015 – 2018), a sitcom about a family of super spies and their desire to protect Washington from any danger.

“Shake It Up” theme song by Disney Channel UK


In 2017, Zendaya gave life to a fearless, comically honest and younger version of the iconic comic book character Michelle Jones, also known as the one and only MJ, Peter Parker‘s greatest love. The classic hero’s latest trilogy is played by Tom Holland and follows an insecure teenager discovering his new powers while trying to keep his social life normal, which is a bit difficult, to say the least. Holland and Zendaya met on the set of Spider-Man: Homecoming and since then their friendship grew stronger than ever. The couple has been officially together since July 2021, when they were spotted kissing in Tom’s car in Los Angeles (rumors have it that a wedding is on the way).

The Spider-Man franchise brought different types of opinions about the actress: a bunch of compliments, but also many racist comments about her being chosen to play an originally white woman. Despite facing strong hate on social media, she didn’t give up and kept the other two movies under her belt, as well as showing how good she could be, with or without the support of certain people.


Notable actors usually have a life-changing project that occupies an important place on their resumes. In Zendaya’s case, that project is Sam Levinson‘s Euphoria, one of HBO’s biggest and best-known series, premiered in 2019. The show was a phenomenon, the cultural event of the moment during its two seasons and highlighted her career on a completely new level of fame and talent recognition.

The plot’s main character is Rue Bennett (Zendaya), a drug-addicted teenager who tries to figure out how to survive all the school and family dramas while living a tough life, full of worries and journeys of self-discovery.

In 2020, Zendaya was nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category and became the youngest winner, at age of 24. Two years later, she broke another record and became the first African-American to win twice.


The 2017 musical The Greatest Showman was another opportunity for Zendaya to show, through her character Anne Wheeler, a little more of  her versatility and commitment to complex choreographies and singing. One of the most memorable scenes of the picture is the one where Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and Anne dance and sing “Rewrite The Stars”.

In 2021, Zendaya joined the remake of the 80s classic Dune, which was a huge box office and critical success. Although Chani (Zendaya) doesn’t have much screen time in the first part, the audience was very hyped about the second film, which premiered in February and is already being considered one of the “best Sci-Fi films ever made” . Two years ago, the dystopian fiction was nominated for 10 Oscars and won six of them, and there’s a possibility that the same will happen at the 2025 Academy Awards.


Luca Guadagnino, director of Call Me by Your Name and Bones And All, has just presented his newest film Challengers to the world. Luckily, he had some help in the shared production with Zendaya, the movie’s star. The cast also includes actors Mike Faist (West Side Story) and Josh O’Connor (The Crown).

Viewers follow Art Donaldson (Faist), a tennis player who tries to improve his skills while playing against Patrick Zweig (O’Connor), an old friend and ex-boyfriend of Tashi (Zendaya), Donaldson’s wife. The sports drama is full of anger, passion, tension and sensual moments involving all of its characters.

It’s no secret that preparing for the role of an athlete is harder than people might think, but Zendaya makes it seem simple and natural, as if she was born to play Tashi, except that she really was. The woman is complex and powerful, perhaps way too honest and difficult to deal with, basically the embodiment of all the feelings that a sport can bring.

In an interview with Vogue, the actress stated the complexibility of Tashi and her actions.

“I guess where I was trying to empathize with my character—because it’s my job, even though I think she does some shit that I would absolutely never do—is in how nobody’s like, ‘Tashi, are you okay? What do you need?’ ” she continues. “She’s just always running shit, and nobody is taking any of that off of her shoulders.”

Just like Euphoria, Guadagnino’s work provided another boost in Zendaya’s cinematic journey, a life changing experience and, certainly, a milestone.


The article above was edited by Beatriz Imagure.
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Isabella Simões

Casper Libero '27

I'm a passionate girl when it comes to discovering new worlds through communication, but even more passionate when I can share it with everyone.