Zendaya -- part of the new crop of up-and-coming triple-threat Disney stars like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus before her -- has already made a name for herself as a positive role model among young fans, and it's a title she embraces.

She's become a vocal opponent of cultural appropriation and racism, often speaking out against the actions of some of her peers. She turned down the opportunity to star in an Aaliyah biopic once she realized the project would fail to honor the fallen artist in a way that would do justice to her legacy. These aren't easy things to do as a relative newcomer with little clout in the entertainment industry, but Zendaya remains firmly planted in her beliefs.

In the new issue of Complex, the Disney star explained that coming to terms with who she is as a person early in life helped her shape her own persona in a way that doesn't compromise who she actually is. She said, "I think it’s a responsibility, but like Tupac Shakur, I’m a real model. Which means: I’m not pretending to be something that I’m not, because like he said, people are going to be disappointed when they find out who you are, because it’s not going to be what you presented to the world. So just keep it real. I’m a good kid and that’s all."

When asked whether she thinks she'll ever have her own "Miley moment" -- that is, rebel so overtly against the squeaky-clean Disney image she's been branded with since the start of her career -- Zendaya answers with a firm no. She said, "No...in order to avoid those problems just be yourself from the beginning and be honest with the world, because that’s the only thing you can do. There will be no surprises."

But she sympathizes with young stars who go that route anyway, saying, "A lot of them were forced into being role models and they had to pretend to be something that they didn’t feel matched up with who they were. And that’s because they started really, really young. So you’ve got to realize when you’re really young you don’t know who you are yet. And as soon as you figure it out, you’ve already been forced to become something that you didn’t really know you signed up for. So it’s like, I get it."

She continued, "There’s a lot of pressure, so I completely understand. Everyone has their different ways of learning and growing and finding out who they are, and you can’t fault people for that. Again, I think with all the prior Disney stars, at least you can say they are themselves now."

Zendaya also opened up about the Lifetime Aaliyah biopic she was attached to star in last year, until she ultimately dropped out of the project once she found out some of the more unsavory details behind it. Aaliyah's family wasn't involved, nor did they approve of it -- both points that Zendaya wasn't aware of when she first agreed to star in the film.

She said, "I just didn’t like the way things were going down. There were a lot of things that came to my attention that I didn’t know about, about the family and production value. You just assume that things are taken care of when you step onto a project. But when you realize that things are just falling apart, you’re like, 'This is not what I signed up for, this is not what I thought it was. This is not what I think is worthy of her movie.' It really ate me up inside. A lot of people thought that I knew that the family wasn’t involved, and I didn’t. I just auditioned like anyone else and got the job."

Zendaya dropped out of the project once she realized it wouldn't properly commemorate Aaliyah's memory: "I just thought that it was being rushed. I thought that there was nobody who really knew her on that project at all—literally no one. I can only know so much about someone from watching their interviews. I don’t know what she was like in her kitchen talking to her mom. That would be rude of me to try to figure that out without knowing. If god forbid something were to happen to me, I wouldn’t want my parents to have to deal with that. I just felt that it was inappropriate, so I didn’t want to do it."

It's a good thing she didn't go through with it -- the film ended up bombing, with close collaborator Timbaland calling it "a mockery," so add foresight to Zendaya's long list of talents.

Read Zendaya's full interview over at Complex.

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