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'Atlanta' Actress Zazie Beetz Gets Real About Her Struggle With Anxiety

Anxiety is an invisible doubt killer and the phantom momentum blocker.

Celebrity News

Anxiety is an invisible doubt killer and the phantom momentum blocker. It rears its ugly head when you least expect, as well as when you expect it the most. Fueled by fear and powered by involuntary paralysis, there's almost no stopping anxiety once it revs up unless you've really practiced techniques that can help ease the symptoms of panic and anxiety.

Recently, Zazie Beetz of the Emmy-winning show, Atlanta, revealed her own battles with a severe anxiety disorder. Although her character, Van, is a seemingly level-headed and calm woman, Beetz told The New York Times that in reality, she's been battling anxiety since she was an adolescent.

Anxiety disorder is one of the most common forms of mental illness in America, with some estimates stating that anywhere from 18-30% of the population is struggling with the disorder. For Zazie Beetz, her disorder is complicated by something that many successful women of color also find themselves dealing with: Impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is the overwhelming fear that despite your talents and achievements, you don't truly deserve your success and often feel like a "fraud" when your hard work is acknowledged. When asked about her Emmy nomination, Zazie said:

"It's just a big part of my life. I think this is actually a little bit weird — it's where my not resounding, complete excitement for receiving an Emmy nomination is coming from; a feeling of complete impostor syndrome, and feeling like I don't deserve it. I don't know … I hesitate saying that publicly, because I don't want to come off like I don't appreciate it."

Despite the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, those dealing with any kind of mental health issue don't exactly find the flashing lights as exciting as others might. Beetz says that within her industry, her validation often comes from outside sources. Most women understand that this external validation is never quite sufficient. Zazie shared:

"It's something really hard to deal with, being in an industry where your validation is only from the outside, especially if your confidence isn't high in your work. I just really want to do good work. That's just important to me, and when something is really being publicly lauded, I just really want to feel like I did my best work, and I'm never sure if I do my best work. That's something I've always struggled with within my work and in this industry."

While she has now developed the ability to recognize that she has not only earned but deserves her place as a top-tier actress, it did take her some time to get to that place. She told The New York Times:

"I've gotten much better at feeling like I have found my place, and like I deserve to be in a place. I've gotten much, much better at being able to deal with feeling very insecure or very anxious, or having panic attacks on set. But I think initially for 'Atlanta', it was my biggest opportunity. It was my first time showing my face to the world. So, I was very incredibly terrified of that."

While some of us can relate to Beetz in regards to her fears of not being good enough, while simultaneously battling anxiety, I bet many more of us can relate to the feeling that we might have only been hired for that position in order to fill a quota.

"I worry more that I'm being cast just because they need to fill a brown quota, and because they feel obliged to do that, and not because they actually want me. I feel like, does that mean my work isn't as good? Would I have been cast if there wasn't public pressure now to make sure that one brown face is among the sea of white? So, that's where I believe that comes from, this feeling like I'm not actually maybe wanted, and that they're just feeling pressure to want me. Obviously, I think there is genuine interest and I have genuine relationships with people, but also I just happen to be coming into the industry during a time where this is a huge shift. So it's an adjustment."

When we are able to find worth in ourselves and the value that we provide in the workplace, then and only then will we overcome these lingering feelings of doubt and inadequacy.

To read more of her interview with The New York Times, click here.

Featured image by Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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