Don’t let their youth fool you — Generation Z has some of the most talented, passionate hustlers this world has ever seen. From entrepreneurs to songwriters, Black Gen-Z women are especially killing the game.
For those who aren’t familiar, the Gen-Z demographic refers to the population born after millennials and before Generation Alpha. As mentioned, Gen Z is full of incredibly hardworking Black girls and women who are taking over their respective fields. These ladies may be young (they were all born between the years of 1997 and 2012, approximately), but their youth brings a wave of freshness to each of their industries and they’re all surely destined for success.
To name a few: Storm Reid is a full-time actress but also enrolled as a freshman at the University of Southern California; Marsai Martin is changing the way Black films are created with her production company, Genius Productions; producer Wondagurl had a placement on a Jay-Z record at the age of 16; and, there’s still so many more accomplished women on this list.
Below are 12 Gen-Z queens to watch out for in the years to come.
1. Marsai Martin (Actress, Producer, Entrepreneur)
Marsai Martin was only a 9-year-old child actress when she was introduced to our television screens on the ABC series, black-ish. Today, she has blossomed into a multifaceted seventeen-year-old actress and producer. In 2019, she made history by becoming the youngest executive producer ever with her film, Little, which she starred in alongside Regina Hall and Issa Rae. Since then, Martin has also started her own Los Angeles-based production company called Genius Productions. Her company is very intentional about not accepting any projects involving Black pain — it’s actually a non-negotiable. While her time on black-ish may be coming to an end with the show’s final season premiering this month, it’s clear to see that Martin’s career is only just beginning.
2. Storm Reid (Actress, Producer)
Storm Reid has been in the acting world for several years now, but her latest role as Zendaya’s younger sister in HBO’s Euphoria proves she has the range she needs to become a force in film and television. Her resume is quite extensive and her performances in productions like 12 Years A Slave, A Wrinkle In Time, and now Euphoria have earned her critical acclaim. She’s also made sure to prioritize education whilst upholding her career — in Fall 2021, she began her first semester at the University of Southern California.
3. Anya J. Dillard (Activist)
Although Anya Dillard is only 18 years old, her work as an activist has already been nationally recognized as incredibly impactful. In 2020, she helped organize the largest civil rights protest in West Orange, N.J. history with over 3,000 people in attendance. During that protest, Dillard gave a speech that ended up going viral on social media, which introduced even more people to her message. Since then, she’s been featured in The Washington Post and Elle magazine. Currently a freshman at Rutgers University, Dillard is continuing her work in activism while still being a full-time student.
4. Monaleo (Rapper)
Monaleo is a Houston rapper who’s dropping hit after hit and whose songs continuously go viral on TikTok. Her debut single, titled “Beating Down Yo Block” and produced by Merion Krazy, was an excellent establishment of her signature style — quick-witted bars and a flow that rides the beat smoother than a 2022 Benz. Her latest single, “We Not Humping,” still embodies her signature style, but also showcases that she can switch it up if need be. Monaleo’s doing the work to separate herself from her peers and it’s paying off.
5. Mikaila Ulmer (Entrepreneur)
In 2015, Mikaila Ulmer and her father appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch Ulmer’s lemonade business, “Me & The Bees Lemonade,” to investors. Ulmer and her dad left the show $60,000 richer and with the support of Daymond John. Later that year, the young go-getter was invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama. Today, Ulmer’s lemonade is carried in over 1,500 stores all over the nation and her brand has expanded to include lip balms as well. She’s only 17 years old and her entrepreneurship skills are already through the roof.
6. Wondagurl (Producer)
Wondagurl has been killing the production game since 2013 when she was featured on Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail at only 16 years old. Since then she’s been featured in Forbes’ “30 Under 30″ and worked with artists such as Travis Scott (with whom she scored her first top 40 hit), Usher, Rihanna, and plenty more. With the industry already being so difficult to break into, it’s astonishing to see how far Wondagurl has come at such a young age. We all can’t wait to see who she works with next!
7. Nija Charles (Singer, Songwriter)
It’s likely Nija Charles wrote your favorite song and you probably have no clue. Although she’s only 24 years old, her abilities as a songwriter have made her one of the most sought-after in the game. She’s written for Beyoncé, Summer Walker, Usher, Cardi B, Chris Brown and Drake to name a few. Needless to say, she has a plethora of platinum hits under her belt. Charles’ talent certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed as she was included in Rolling Stone’s “Future 25” list in 2020 and won two Grammy awards the following year.
8. Tiana Day (Activist)
Tiana Day is quickly making a name for herself. In 2020, she helped lead and organize a number of protests throughout the Bay area. At the age of 17, she led the first-ever Black Lives Matter march across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco after the death of George Floyd with over 45,000 people. She continued to lead and organize marches throughout that year and then founded her nonprofit, “Youth Advocates for Change.” Tiana is now 19 years old and still killing it in the world of activism. Her passion is only gaining more and more attention amongst major power players and the work she’s done with her nonprofit is quite remarkable as well.
9. Mica and Maya Cain (Designers, Entrepreneurs)
Mica and Maya Caine are identical twin sisters from Columbus, Ohio who have put their heads together to create “Mive Fashion.” Mive is an online fashion store that allows women to shop for their exact body type without being at a physical store location. They both graduated from Indiana University in 2018 and within a few months they created Mive. They’re intentional about Mive being size-inclusive and carbon neutral — two values they’ve prioritized since the company’s inception.
10. Maya Penn (Entrepreneur)
Maya Penn is the CEO of her sustainable fashion company, “Maya’s Ideas.” At the age of 8, she started her company with the goal of making fashion more eco-friendly. She’s done a total of three TED Talks and plans to make waves as an animator and philanthropist as well. She has her own nonprofit, “Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet,” where she’s focused on mental health, environmental justice and diversity in STEM careers. Did we mention she’s only 21 years old?
11. Shahadi Wright Joseph (Actress)
Shahadi Wright Joseph is another young, Black actress who’s quickly making a name for herself in the film industry. She had a breakout year in 2019 when she starred in two big-budget films: Jordan Peele’s psychological thriller, Us, and she also played Young Nala in The Lion King. With the diverse roles she’s been taking on, Joseph is making it clear that even though she is only 16 years old, her range is well beyond her years of experience.