The stunning transformation of Skai Jackson

Skai Jackson was born in Staten Island, New York in 2002 and has lived in every NYC borough except Queens, the actress told ET Style. New York, where she grew up for a time before ultimately moving to Los Angeles when she was nine years old, Jackson revealed in an interview with YSBnow. Despite being famous from a young age, she continued, telling the outlet,”I go to school like everyone else. I’m a normal kid. I hang out with my friends. I would say for being on TV, I’m as normal as it gets.”

Being raised in the city that never sleeps has surely taught her about working hard and ignoring the haters on her way to success. “I don’t care what anyone says; I’m just living for me, and I’m doing what I want to do,” she said in the interview. “At this point, I really don’t care [because] I just love who I am.” You can’t help but love the outspoken, genuine actress.

Since she’s been in the spotlight for so long, though, you may have forgotten her hustle to stardom. Just how did she become the star she is today? Read on to learn more about Skai Jackson’s stunning transformation.

Skai Jackson was one of the first Black children to be featured on the cover of a magazine

Skai Jackson told Entertainment Tonight that she never really desired to be in the spotlight, but the spotlight found her anyway. In fact, at just three years old, Jackson made history as one of the first Black children to be featured on the cover of a magazine. She and her mother appeared on the cover of Parenting magazine in 2007. “At that time, there weren’t a lot of black kids on covers, especially a mom and a daughter,” the actress confirmed to Entertainment Tonight. “And for us to be, like, one of the first was pretty awesome .”

The star continued, saying, “People wouldn’t think that if you put black people on a cover it would sell out, but ours did. I feel like we are breaking stereotypes, which is a great thing.”

Skai Jackson began her career as a child model

Skai Jackson’s career began early — very early. She got started with print modeling at just nine months old before moving onto acting in commercials at one year of age, the actress confirmed to YSBnow. Fostering her career wasn’t necessarily easy, though. Jackson told Entertainment Tonight that she and her family were going through a financial struggle when she was young and they didn’t always know if they would have the money to make it to her auditions. But all of the hard work paid off, she said.

While Jackson wasn’t all about the limelight, she did love being in front of the camera. “I always just knew I wanted to be an actress,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “I knew just from watching different TV shows and movies like, for instance, Raven-Symoné. [When] I would see her on TV, I felt like, ‘Wow, she’s a young Black girl, and [if] she can do it, I can do it.”

Skai Jackson was bullied in school

Skai Jackson was bullied throughout her life, primarily for being short, the actress admitted in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. “For me, growing up at a young age in the limelight and on social media … I did notice a lot of hate comments or people would just, like, nitpick at my appearance, just to be funny,” Jackson said. “I didn’t understand why these people were saying these things. I would get really, really sad.” Over the years, though, Jackson learned to love herself and has since stopped caring so much about what anyone else has to say, she explained to the outlet.

In an interview with Teen Vogue about combatting bullies, Jackson told listeners how she’s managed to tune out bullies and fashion critics alike. While she said she used to try to confront her haters, she’s learned to ignore them so long as she is happy with herself. She also recommends telling parents, principles, or other adults about bullying. As far as unsolicited fashion advice, she explained, “I just know that as long as you like [what you’re wearing] and that you’re cool with it, everything’s all good.”

Skai Jackson snagged roles in film and TV projects at a young age

When Skai Jackson was just eight years old, she secured an audition for the Disney Channel sitcom Jessie. The young star was later called out for a screen test in Los Angeles. And, of course, the talented young actress got the part.

“I remember when I first moved to L.A. … filming the opening credits and I’m like, ‘Wow this is crazy,'” she told YSBnow. “I just went from being in New York and just working, doing print, and doing TV to now being on a Disney Channel TV show.”

While Jackson is perhaps best known for her role as Zuri Ross in Jessie, she previously appeared in films like Liberty Kid, Rescue Me, and The Rebound growing up, according to Elle. She even did voice acting work for the little fish in Nickelodeon’s cartoon Bubble Guppies. She can truly do it all.

Skai Jackson has something in common with her character on Jessie

For several years, Skai Jackson starred as Zuri Ross in the Disney Channel sitcom Jessie. Zuri was adopted at birth from Uganda, Africa and is the youngest member of the Ross family. The show follows the story of Jessie (played by Debby Ryan), a small-town teen from Texas who nannies for the Ross family in New York. As Jackson recalled in an interview with YSBnow, she “was so happy” to be chosen for the role in a Disney series “because that’s something that [she] always wanted to do.”

In an interview with Premiere Event, Jackson told CEO Michael David Palance that she sees herself in Zuri, too. “Zuri has a little sass to her, and I also have a little sass, so I would say that we both share [that quality] of sassiness,” she admitted. The Disney Channel show ran for four seasons, culminating in a 2015 series finale.

Skai Jackson signed on for this Disney Channel spinoff

After starring as Zuri in Disney’s Jessie, Skai Jackson went on to sign for the Disney Channel’s spinoff sitcom Bunk’d in 2015, where she reprised her role as Zuri Ross. Bunk’d follows the story of the Ross family to summer camp at Camp Kikiwaka in Maine. The Ross kids aren’t used to being in the great outdoors, so they have a lot of skills to master with the help of their camp counselors.

“I was super excited knowing that I would be playing Zuri,” she told Shine on Media in an interview. “You know, I was kind of sad at first before I knew about the spinoff that, you know, my character — I wouldn’t play Zuri again … I love Zuri so much, and she’s just such a fun character.” Bunk’d was shot on the same lot and sound stage as Jessie but with a brand new set and Jackson revealed to Shine on Media that she “loved that” about the process.

Skai Jackson made headlines for this online feud

Skai Jackson isn’t only known for being a Disney star. She’s also recognized for her no-nonsense approach to life. In fact, she made headlines in 2016 when she tweeted about Azealia Banks following the singer’s “racist and homophobic rant against Zayn Malik,” US Magazine reported“Azealia Banks needs to simmer down a little,” the then-14-year-old Disney actress shared on Twitter. Banks replied, telling Jackson to “grow some hips and start [your] menses” and “stay in a child’s place.” Ouch.

Jackson followed up with another tweet, writing, “When a no-hip-having 14-year-old has more class than you. Worry about your career. Get one.” That obviously didn’t sit well with Banks, who came for the young actress once more. “LOL, says the Disney Channel Reject. … You know they don’t like girls your color. Enjoy while it lasts,” Banks tweeted. She also accused Jackson’s mom of “pimping [her] out to Disney.” The Twitter feud ended with Jackson telling Banks that she “[gives] black [women] a bad name” and told her she’d be praying for her.

Skai Jackson became a viral meme

Even if you don’t know Skai Jackson from television, there’s a good chance you think she looks familiar. That’s because she became a viral meme in 2016 when a photo of her started making its rounds.

“I was going on a Good Morning show here in New York and it was really early and I was really tired, and I took the picture,” the actress told NowThis Entertainment. “For me, I don’t really care. I’m like, whatever, it’s a picture. So I put it out, and people just decided to turn it into a meme, which I think is really funny.” The popular meme has been used with a variety of captions like “When y’all both waitin’ on the other person to apologize first” and “When you meet his mom and she says, ‘Oh, so you’re the girl he’s always on FaceTime with,’ but you got an Android.”

Skai Jackson was named one of Time's 30 Most Influential Teens of 2016

Skai Jackson was notably listed as one of Time’s 30 Most Influential Teens of 2016. To determine which teenagers make the cut, the publication explained that it considers “accolades across numerous fields, global impact through social media, and overall ability to drive news.”

“If you don’t watch the Disney Channel, you may not recognize Jackson’s name,” the list revealed. “But chances are you’ve seen her likeness, thanks to an image the model and Bunk’d star tweeted of herself sitting primly on a chair, which has since become an unstoppable Internet meme.” Time commended Jackson for quickly joining in on the joke about herself and for using her newfound fame to be “a force for good” by “speaking out against cyberbullying, for example, and shutting down notorious Twitter troll Azealia Banks.”

The Disney star was just 14 years old when she made the list alongside Maddie Ziegler, Logan Guleff, Gaten Matarazzo, Sasha and Malia Obama, and more. Making Time’s annual list is quite the achievement for a teenager.

Skai Jackson gave a powerful speech at a March for Our Lives event

In 2018, Skai Jackson gave a speech at a March for Our Lives event, which she spoke about in an interview for NowThis Entertainment. March for Our Lives started as a student-led demonstration that supports legislation to prevent gun violence in the United States. Its mission, according to the organization’s site, is to “harness the power of young people across the country to fight for sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives.”

Jackson recalled attending the event, saying, “That was the first time I’d ever given a speech in front of that many people. What inspired me to get involved is just that it’s such an important topic, and I feel like we’re just, like, letting it happen and doing nothing about it — especially the government.”

In her speech, Jackson called for her peers to take a firm stance against gun violence. “It is time for this generation, my generation, to take a firm stance and demand a change,” she said in her speech. “It can only be fixed when people put aside selfish agendas and focus on the greater good for humanity,” she continued.

Skai Jackson appeared in a music video in 2019

Skai Jackson is certainly no stranger to the camera. And, in July 2019, Jackson appeared in a Lil Nas X music video. Though she didn’t actually film with Lil Nas X, she did make it into his video for the song “Panini.”

“Everything was filmed on a green screen, pretty much,” Jackson dished to NowThis Entertainment. “So the only time it was actually, like, ‘real’ is when I was in the alley [in] the beginning of the music video and he was, like, popping up in front of me.”

The shoot took three whole days to complete. The first day went from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., the second day ran from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and the third day was from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m., Jackson explained. Despite the long hours, Jackson told Good Morning America that it was “really fun.”

Skai Jackson wrote an empowering memoir

In 2019, Skai Jackson’s memoir, Reach for the Skai: How to Inspire, Empower, and Clapback, was published. In the book, she shares her best life lessons and explains how she rose to stardom. In an interview with Good Morning America, Jackson said, “For me, the message of the book is just to be yourself, love yourself no matter what anyone tells you to [do] and to inspire, empower, and clap back.”

During an interview with Aol’s Build Series, Jackson explained that she wrote her book to inspire people. It only took a couple months for her to finish writing and Jackson felt it was “the perfect time” to publish it.

While some might think the Jackson was too young to write a memoir when she was just 16 years old, she had lived quite a storied life already. Her childhood growing up on commercials and in print ads paved her path to stardom on Disney Channel as a young Black girl in an industry that didn’t necessarily make it easy.

Skai Jackson lost a close friend in 2019

Skai Jackson lost her very close Jessie co-star Cameron Boyce in July 2019 after he suffered a fatal seizure, according to BBC News. Boyce starred as Luke Ross in the Disney Chanel sitcom. Shortly after the 20-year-old Disney star passed away, Jackson took to Instagram, writing, “Cam, you were one of a kind. My heart will be forever broken. I am so happy that I got to spend almost everyday with you on set, you gave the best hugs. I wish I would have hugged you tighter when I saw you a couple of months ago.”

When asked about his death in an interview with Good Morning America some months later, Jackson explained, “Cameron was like a big brother to me and everyone. When he would walk in the room, he would just brighten up the whole room.” She continued, saying, “If you were having a bad day, he would just make you feel, like, okay — like everything was okay. He was just such a loving, down-to-earth person.”

Jackson also told Entertainment Tonight that his death was “very sad” and “unfortunate,” but she planned to “continue his legacy” and make him proud.

Skai Jackson uses her platform to wake the world up to racism

Skai Jackson uses her platform to help wake the world up to, and speak out against, racism. “I would just always get DMs from my fans because people know that I’m an advocate for anti-bullying,” she told Entertainment Tonight of the thousands of fans who message her about racists. “I would always just look at my messages and see a bunch of my fans saying, ‘Look at what this person said to me, I don’t know how to deal with this.'”

Jackson believes it is her duty to use her large platform for good. And her work certainly is making changes in the world. In fact, by exposing allegedly racist teens on Twitter, several universities where those teens are enrolled (like Yale, Louisiana State, and Texas Christian) have opened investigations, according to Forbes. Her tweets follow a simple format: “[Name], you have been exposed…” Jackson’s followers definitely appreciate her efforts. “I have the best fans ever,” Jackson told Forbes. “They just love it.”

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