Everything you need to know about Amandla Stenberg: Star of this summer's ‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’

By Linnéa Pesonen

Photo: Getty

As we gear up for the anticipated release of the Star Wars: The Acolyte series on June 4th, we break down everything you need to know about Amandla Stenberg, the Danish-American powerhouse actor, activist, musician and former Vogue Scandinavia cover star

You might recognise Danish-American actress Amandla Stenberg from her heart-wrenching on-screen performances, or perhaps you have watched her viral YouTube video that sparked important conversations on cultural appropriation across the globe. At just 25, Stenberg has already achieved plenty, and there’s undoubtedly more to come as we eagerly wait for her to conquer our screens again this summer in the much-anticipated Star Wars series.


In the meantime, we dive into everything there is to know about Stenberg – beyond her accomplishments on the silver screen, too.


She is half Danish

Although Stenberg was born and raised in Los Angeles, she has roots in Scandinavia due to her father, Danish music promoter Tom Stenberg. Through her dad, Stenberg has immersed herself in the country’s rich culture via the Hans Christian Andersen stories she devoured as a kid, indulging in Danish delicacies and architecture in Solvang (a Danish-style village in California), and the multiple visits to her father’s hometown of Copenhagen. These days, the Danish capital holds a special place in Stenberg’s heart, and she aims to keep visiting the city when she can. “Now I’ve gotten to make some of my closest friends there… I found queer community there and communities of colour that have surprised and amazed me,” she says in our latest issue.

While Stenberg has been exploring her Nordic roots, she also discovered that her grandmother is Greenlandic Inuit. It’s another aspect of her heritage the actress has been “learning about and reconnecting with,” and she plans to take a trip to the island soon.


She has been acting for two decades

Stenberg started acting already at the tender age of four – her first foray into the scene was doing Disney commercials. After she had gotten an agent at nine years old and embarked on a more serious pursuit of an acting career.


She plays the lead role in this summer's ‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ series

Stenberg plays the lead role of 'Mae', a dangerous warrior, in the eight-episode Disney+ series. Filmed in London, the The Acolyte follows a Jedi investigation into a series of crimes and is set at the end of the ‘High Republic’ era before the events of the main Star Wars films. According to Stenberg in an interview with Screenrant, the series explores “ethical and spirital issues”, and universal themes like "what it means to be human”.


She starred as Rue in ‘The Hunger Games'

Amandla Stenberg as Rue in The Hunger Games. Photo: Lionsgate

Stenberg’s big break arrived when, at 14, she was cast as Rue in The Hunger Games (2012). This career-defining moment had dual impact – bringing Stenberg mainstream exposure, but also prompting a social media storm of racist reactions with many protesting the casting of a Black actor for the role – despite that being how she was written in the books.


She is a talented musician

While Stenberg’s on-screen achievements are certainly impressive, the multi-hyphenate has also dipped her toes into another creative field. A gifted musician, Stenberg plays the drums, violin and guitar, and in 2013, together with artist Zander Hawley, she began singing and performing on the violin at various Los Angeles venues. A couple of years later, the duo, going by the name of Honeywater, released their eponymous debut EP. After the pair went their separate ways in 2016, Stenberg has been forging a career as a solo artist, and you can spot her music in popular titles such as Euphoria, Dear Evan Hansen and Everything, Everything.


She is an avid activist

When Stenberg exploded into the public consciousness in her teens, she began to use her voice to advocate for important matters such as gender equality, diversity and inclusion and LGBTQIA+ visibility. Stenberg herself came out as queer and non-binary in 2016 and uses she/her and they/them pronouns interchangeably. A couple of years later, the actress came out as gay.

In 2015 Stenberg created a YouTube video titled ‘Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows’, which promptly went viral and set the internet ablaze. In the four-minute clip, the then 16-year-old actress firmly explains the problem with appropriating Black culture. Starting with discussing Black hair, Stenberg delves into the history and significance of different hairstyles like braids, locks and cornrows. She then describes how the popularity of hip hop grew exponentially in the ’90s and early ’00s and thus made Black culture increasingly popular – this resulted in some white celebrities adopting certain aspects of Black culture, such as cornrows, grills and braids, as “a way of being edgy and getting attention.”

The actress also calls out the fashion industry, explaining how, in the mid-2010s, cornrows and braids had made their way onto runways and editorials. “The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurry,” she says in the video. “But here’s the thing: appropriation occurs, when a style leads to racist generalisations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.”

Her work for a better change did not go unnoticed: in 2015 and 2016, Stenberg was chosen as one of Time’s Most Influential Teens, and in 2016 she was also included in Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul 100 list of visionaries and influential leaders.