Freeform/Jabari Jacobs

Trevor Jackson & Diggy Simmons Prepare For Growth In 'Grown-ish' Premiere

The two actors are on their grown man-ish.

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For the leading fellas of Freeform’s college comedy-drama, grown-ish, graduation season is quickly approaching, forcing Aaron (Trevor Jackson), Doug (Diggy Simmons), Vivek (Jordan Buhat), and Luca (Luka Sabbat) to come to grips with what life after Cal-U will have in store. As the beaus find themselves crossed between self-induced drama and campus tea, the forthcoming season will bring the cohort of lads closer to the reality of the end of one chapter and the start of something new.

Through the ups and downs of managing hook-ups, mending broken hearts — and a few egos, while discovering who they are as Gen Z figureheads, their stories each paint, in broad strokes, the sort of illustration that arch the boyish behaviors of an adolescent, with the real-life decisions that most guys come face to face with as they cross over into manhood.

Freeform/Jabari Jacobs

For Trevor Jackson, his radical, pro-Black portrayal of Aaron continues the second half of season 4 having to come to grips with the aftermath of a luau party that turned ugly, where he and Luca (Luka Sabbat) got Lei-ed and caught a fade. With emotions and testosterone levels high, it’s not always easy to see things clearly, so fans will be pleased to unpack how each character manages conflict when choosing the high road isn’t always the easiest choice.

As the grown-ish actor reflects on his character's progression, Trevor shares his sentiments on what it’s been like to play a character who’s actively exploring his vulnerabilities through introspection. “I think it’s awesome, I think it’s true, and I think it’s honest.” With that, Jackson meditates on just how much his own journey of self-discovery as a young Black man, mirrors that of his on-screen persona. “I think I’ve definitely experienced similar situations as Aaron — you kind of know what you want to do from a young age, but then you just start dealing with being human and realizing that at [some] point what you wanted might change, and who you are might change,” he tells xoNecole.

"You kind of know what you want to do from a young age, but then you just start dealing with being human and realizing that at some point what you wanted might change, and who you are might change."

As seen in the trailer for season 4B teases, Aaron’s successes as a socially-involved TA are opening doors that could put distance between him and his love interest, Zoey (Yara Shahidi). Although it’s not always easy to step into something new when what you’ve known lies within your comfort zone, Trevor tells xoNecole how the toughest choices can lead to the greatest growth. “[When] you’re younger, decisions were made for you but when everything lies on your shoulders, and you’re responsible for your own life, it definitely hits home a litter harder.”

Freeform/Jabari Jacobs

As much as college can serve as a test drive to pre-adulthood, there are some matters of the heart that you want to learn and grow from before the pressures of real adulthood kick in. For the charming and mildly-toxic Doug, played by Diggy Simmons, balancing friendships and a new flame, while attempting to keep things cordial between his ex, Jazz (Chloe Bailey) in the show, brings up the question of what it takes to prioritize your relationship so that all parties, including yourself, are considered.

Still, as Simmons shares, “You have to put yourself first, especially coming out of a relationship.”

He continues, “All of us do that - we have the old saying of, 'I gotta focus on myself,’ but that’s a true thing.” Being that he’s had practice with this balancing act through his character, Doug, it comes from a place of deposited wisdom when he shared how setting parameters around your relationships can ensure the best possible results for you, and all parties involved.

Diggy tells xoNecole, “I think when cultivating a new relationship, that isn’t so committed yet or doesn’t have a title, you have to create your own boundaries that you're comfortable with and see if that person is comfortable with those same boundaries that you hold for yourself.”

Watch new episodes of grown-ish on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on Freeform and the next day on Hulu.

Featured image by Freeform/Jabari Jacobs

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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