Shahadi Wright Joseph is an American dancer, singer, and actor who is popular for appearing in the American film Us (2019) and the web series Them (2021).
Shahadi Wright Joseph was born on Friday, April 29, 2005 (age 16 years; as of 2021), and she hails from Brooklyn in New York, U.S.
Inheriting the skills from her dancer parents, Shahadi began dancing when she was just two years old. She spent her childhood learning various dance forms like classical ballet, hip hop, modern dance, Jazz, and West African and Caribbean dance at her father’s Brooklyn dance studio Purelements: An Evolution in Dance. Thereafter, her parents enrolled her in Lapuerta Abierta Early Learn Center, a Childcare Center in Brooklyn, where she pursued her initial schooling. She was also an active member of the Brooklyn-based non-profit organization Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation, which aims at promoting cultural performing arts.
Height (approx.): 5′ 3″
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Black
Family & Ethnicity
Her paternal grandmother, Sylvia Joseph, immigrated from Trinidad, an island near Venezuela. Her grandfather was an opera singer. Shahadi’s father, Kevin Joseph, is a professional hip hop dancer who founded the dance studio Purelements: An Evolution in Dance in 2006. Her mother, Dina Wright Joseph, is also a professional dancer who co-founded Purelements. After attending the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and Martha Graham School, Dina extensively toured around the world with Forces of Nature Dance Theater Company for twelve years. Post the tour, Dina started working as a dance teacher-cum-program manager at Purelements. Shahadi’s elder sister, Sundari Wright Joseph, too started off as a dancer, but later, she started swimming competitively.
At the age of eight, Shahadi began her acting journey as a theater artist when she landed the role of the younger version of Nala in the Broadway show ‘The Lion King’ (2014). Based on the 1994 Walt Disney Animation Studios’ animated feature film of the same name, the play centers around Simba, a young lion prince who flees his kingdom after the murder of his father, Mufasa. According to the narrative, Nala is the lioness heroine and love interest of the central character Simba.
At the age of ten, she starred in another film-to-Broadway production ‘School of Rock,’ which was nominated for the Tony Award in 2016. The musical follows Dewey Finn, an out-of-work rock singer and guitarist, who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school despite having no teaching experience and general antipathy for children. In the play, Shahadi played the role of a background dancer Madison/Matthew, who was usually spotted dancing near the drumset in the play.
She made her television debut in 2016 with the NBC special ‘Hairspray Live!’ in which she played the role of a skilled dancer named Little Inez Stubbs, Maybelle’s teenage daughter and Seaweed’s younger sister. Set in 1962 Baltimore, the film follows Tracey, a teenager who dreams of getting a spot on a popular television show ‘The Corny Collins Show.’
In 2018, she appeared in the 1969 American educational children’s television series ‘Sesame Street.
She released her debut album ‘Love for the Holidays’ on iTunes on Thanksgiving day in 2016. Apart from the titular song, the album also consisted of the songs “Mary Did You Know” and “Time of the Year.”
Shahadi’s debut single “Skin I’m In,” premiered exclusively via Billboard in 2019. In an interview with Billboard, she said,
‘Skin I’m In’ is an anthem to remind us all to love ourselves on our best and worst days….Daily challenges are unavoidable but can be taken in stride when we choose to say, ‘I am enough.”
In 2020, she lent her voice to the song “Wallpaper,” produced by IMMPAAC. Other notable musical credits under her belt include the songs “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “Danger” (Young Simba & Young Nala interlude) from the film ‘The Lion King’ (2019).
She came into the limelight with the 2019 American horror film ‘Us’ in which she played the role of Zora Wilson, the protagonist’s daughter who confronts her sinister doppelganger named Umbrae in the darkened living room of a Santa Cruz vacation home. The film centers around Adelaide Wilson and her family who are attacked by the mysterious doppelgangers dressed in red jumpsuits during a vacation.
The film earned massive popularity, and its debut became the best opening for an original horror film in the history of the US, garnering around 70.25 million US dollars during its opening weekend. For her spectacular performance in the film, Hollywood Critics Association awarded Shahadi the title of “Next Generation of Hollywood” in 2020. Her breakthrough role of Zora Wilson-cum-Umbrae in the film earned her nominations for various accolades like Saturn Awards (2019), Critics’ Choice Awards (2020), and Black Reel Awards, (2020).
In 2019, she gave her voice to the character of young Nala in the remake of the American musical drama film ‘The Lion King.’
She made her digital debut in 2021 when she played the role of Ruby Lee Emory in the American horror anthology series ‘Them.’ Set in 1953, the series follows a black family that moves from North Carolina to an all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles, where their idyllic home becomes an epicenter of evil forces.
- Film Genre: Horror
- Film(s): The Shining (1980), The Babadook (2014), Get Out (2017), Jigsaw (2017)
- Horror movie Character(s): Chucky, Annabelle
- Actress: Lupita Nyong’o
- Singer: Jorja Smith, Ariana Grande, Erykah Badu, Solange, Willow Smith
- Clothing Store: Target
- Dance Form: Ballet, Modern and Western Caribbean Dance
- Professional Dancer: Misty Copeland
- Food: Macaroni Pie, Lasagna
- Fashion Icon: Billie Eilish
- Makeup Brand: Glossier
- Shahadi Wright Joseph is fond of crafting and learned knitting along with her elder sister via online classes. In an interview, she revealed that while she was starring in the Tony-nominated theatrical production ‘School of Rock’ (2016), she sold homemade knit hats and scarves throughout the theater.
- Shahadi became a victim of racial discrimination when she was accused of stealing on the sets of one of her earlier projects. While talking about the incident in an interview, she said,
I was introduced to discrimination while on the set of one of my earlier projects where I was accused of stealing. It was actually said as a joke, so it was more confusing for me until I understood the racial undertones involved.”
Later, it was discovered that the item was misplaced by the accuser himself, and as a result, the production dismissed him from the project.
- During her teenagehood day, Shahadi used to spent her leisure time prank-calling her crushes. In an interview, she said,
At age 13, I spent a majority of my free time prank-calling the boys I had crushes on and tricking out my MySpace page with an array of bathroom mirror selfies.”
- While revealing her must-have while shooting on the set, she said,
My must-have on set is fresh fruit.”
- Shahadi took Spanish classes in eighth grade.
- Her name was included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list of 2021 in the category of Hollywood and Entertainment.