Skai Jackson has a face you know, but a name you might not recognize. At just 14 years old, she is one of the most notable young actresses of color and has one of the most recognizable faces on the Disney Channel. We first got to know her as Zuri Ross on Jessie at the tender age of 9, and now we get to watch her every week on the spin-off show Bunk’d. Jackson is much more than the characters she plays. She is a champion of social media and sharing her opinions on the platforms, and it didn’t take long for fans new and old alike to love her for who she is.
Cliché: What do you love most about acting?
Skai Jackson: This is something I really love to do. I have always wanted to do acting since I was 4 years old or younger. Also, just being around great people, people who are warm and nice in a great environment, makes it so much better. It is so much better when you can do something that you love and have people who work with you and you guys are like a family together.
What is something the craft has taught you that you will keep forever?
I would definitely say just to stay humble. Don’t let anything get to your head, and if you really love something, go for it. The main thing that anyone has told me on set is to just stay humble and stay true to who you are.
If you weren’t acting, what would you love to do?
If I wasn’t acting, I would probably want to be doing something in fashion. When I was 5 years old, I remember I would grab my Barbie dolls and make dresses from ribbons or cotton balls. My mom definitely saw that at a young age I had a passion for fashion. If I wasn’t acting, I’d love to work in the fashion industry.
At just 14, you are one of the most notable faces on the Disney Channel, first in Jessie and now in Bunk’d. You grew up right alongside your characters. Have any of the lessons they learned helped you in any way?
Most definitely. Starting off with Jessie, I was only 9 years old, and I went from that to Bunk’d when I was 13. I also think that it was a maturing for me and my characters because people assume that I am a little girl with pigtails who wears tutus like my character did when I was 9 years old. Now, people are seeing Zuri in a different light, and me, too. It is like we are both bringing our maturities together.
As one of the few diverse faces on the Disney Channel, do you put pressure on yourself to be a role model for the black girls watching you now and dreaming of being where you are one day?
I definitely have a little bit of pressure on me. Even when I am out in public, people say, “Thank you so much.” Even if it comes to my hair, they’re like, “We love that you keep it natural. We love this, we love that.” So I definitely think that there is a little pressure on me especially because I am one of the few faces who are African American on the Disney Channel, but I am just being who I am and people admire me and call me their role model, which is unbelievable and awesome.
You’re very active on social media and very opinionated. How has it changed your relationship with your fans? Has it changed the general public’s perception of you?
I would definitely say that social media has changed my relationship with my fans because when I first started Jessie, I just turned 9 and I didn’t have Instagram, Twitter, or anything, so it was a little bit harder for me to connect with my fans. I would see them once in a blue moon if I was at the mall. A few months after starting Jessie, I joined social media and got to interact with my fans in a different way. I can easily message them back on Twitter or Instagram or even like their pictures.
For a while, people only thought of me as just a girl on Disney Channel who was “Ms. Perfect” and whatever else they thought about me, but now that I do have social media and especially with all the things that are going on now, I have a voice and I have been speaking out on it and people do have a different perspective of me. They think that I am way more mature than they ever thought that I would be.
Have you started thinking about your acting career post-Disney? Or do you feel that there is still a lot more you want to do with the channel?
I have been thinking about my acting career outside of Disney. I have already been doing voice-over stuff and when I am done with Disney, I definitely want to get into more serious movies, scary movies, and maybe a network TV show. [I’m also interested in] directing and producing. That’s something that I have always wanted to do. I don’t want to take a break from acting; I want to do both. You don’t only have to do one thing at a time.
What projects are you working on? What is coming up next for you?
Right now, I am working on my voice-over show for DreamWorks. I just started that and I can’t talk too much about it because it hasn’t been announced yet. I think you guys will really like it and I think you guys will like my character. It is a little bit different from my character as you would see on TV or even my other voice-overs.
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Skai Jackson Talks Disney Channel and Social Media: Photographed by Quavondo / Makeup by Adam Christopher