A bonafide star since she first appeared on the hit ABC sitcom Black-ish at the age of 10, watching Marsai Martin come into her own as become its own joy.
The 16-year-old actress, who most recently executive produced and starred in Little alongside Issa Rae and Regina Hall, has racked up a number of industry recognitions, including multiple NAACP Image Awards and an MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance.
So Marsai is a natural choice to grace the first digital cover for Essence Girls United, an offshoot of the iconic Black women’s magazine catered specifically to young Black girls. Heralded as a leader of Gen Z’s creative class, the multi-talented Marsai’s preternatural confidence is on display throughout the interview, showcasing a refreshingly uninhibited, ambitious young woman.
She recounts being unfazed by a pitch meeting with Hollywood execs for Little, a movie that would make her the youngest person to ever executive produce a Hollywood film.
“Honestly, when I pitched the film, I thought about it as a whole bunch of dudes sitting around a table talking about our projects and what we have in our heads,” she quips.
It may have helped that she was plenty familiar with two of those “dudes”—Will Packer and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris. But to Marsai, speaking up comes naturally. “I really didn’t think of it as a nervewracking thing,” she told writer Brooklyn White. “Math equations scare me a lot more than public speaking.”
Nor is she interested in dulling that shine for anyone. And why would she be? With multiple projects in the works, including the animated film Paw Patrol: The Movie and her second feature film, StepMonster, Marsai’s fearless, authentic approach clearly works.
“I’m always myself,” Marsai. “I’m in the space I’m in right now because I was just always unapologetically myself.”