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Arts & Culture

Zendaya and Tom Holland Visit the Emmy Award Winner’s Oakland Alma Mater

Written by Olivia Cruz MayedaPublished Dec. 16, 2022 • 5:30pm
Tom Holland and Zendaya attend the premiere of 'Spider-Man: No Way Home.' | (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

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Zendaya has long been a celebrity known for her relatability and likeability, a take-no-flak from anyone style icon with millions of stans and an Emmy-winning performance as Euphoria’s Rue.

Before that, she co-starred on the Disney sitcom Shake It Up. But before that big break, she was just another student at the Oakland School for the Arts.

On Thursday, the 26-year-old Zendaya visited her old school,bringing boyfriend and Spider-Man star Tom Holland with her. That stop was but one part of a fairly high-profile tour: A girl filmed herself sobbing after running into Holland in Lafayette, while on Broadway in Oakland, young people screamed as Zendaya stopped to sign autographs.

Student Nneoma Denchukwu has been an avid fan of Zendaya since her Disney channel days and looks up to her as a fellow Black female performer.

“I wanted to be her,” said the 17-year-old Bishop O’Dowd student, who was one of only two Black girls in her Oakland dance class.

Denchukwu and her dad happened by the Oakland School for the Arts on Thursday, and the two saw a large crowd. Soon after, Zendaya and Holland’s visit was all over her Denchukwu’s friends’ Instagram and Snapchat accounts.

“I love that she’s proud of being from the Bay, and that she comes to visit,” Denchukwu said.

Nneoma Denchukwu posing in a Zendaya-inspired outfit in 2015 | Courtesy Nneoma Denchukwu

Denchukwu is enough of a fan that she dressed like Zendaya for years and even signed up for automated email updates from Zendaya’s old website. It’s been inactive since 2012, but she still checks it sometimes.

“I think she’s just super-real,” Denchukwu said of her idol. “She talks about her story as a Black person, but she also talks about her light-skinned privilege.” 

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