Amandla Stenberg’s social media game is strong, and as much as she is there for her followers, they are there for her, too, as they were when she came out as gay last month.
“I feel really supported by my community – the black community, the gay community,” Stenberg says. “I know my presence in the world in a public-facing manner might make them feel less alienated. I think I rely on them the same way maybe they look up to me.”
The 19-year-old actress has grown up in a generation where “private things being public” is normal, though in her upcoming sci-fi movie “The Darkest Minds” (in theaters Aug. 3), a teenager being extraordinary leads directly to trouble.
In the movie based on the Alexandra Bracken young-adult novel, most of the world’s children have been wiped out by a plague, and those left alive develop powerful abilities and end up in government internment camps. Ruby Daly (Stenberg) escapes her detainment and falls in with a group of other runaways who are key to the youngsters’ full-fledged resistance.
“It’s really allegorical and relevant to what’s happening when it comes to political and nonpolitical events – just this ability we have as a generation to use these tools at our disposal to fight for something we believe in,” Stenberg tells USA TODAY prior to a panel for her new film at geek culture extravaganza Comic-Con. “Sometimes we struggle with that responsibility, sometimes it takes us a moment to get to a place where we can stand in our power, but we do it by trial and error and learning.”
Stenberg feels “proud” of taking a stand and being honest about her sexuality. “Coming out is a little strange because it forces people to think of you in a sexual context, so in that way, it felt a little bizarre. But I didn’t feel any different coming out as gay (than I did) standing in my truth as a black person. It’s another area of self that influences who I am and how I navigate the world.”
Admittedly “a huge nerd for YA,” Stenberg has starred in a number of youth-leaning projects based on books. In addition to “Darkest Minds,” her breakthrough role came as Rue in 2012’s “The Hunger Games.” She starred in last year’s romance “Everything, Everything,” and in the fall, the Los Angeles native headlines “The Hate U Give” (Oct. 19), a timely film about police brutality.
Because she’s fostered a young fan base with her filmography, Stenberg “absolutely” comprehends the power and responsibility of the platform she has. “That’s the entire point. The youth is the future and I recognize that I have the privilege of being able to work on projects that reach a lot of people and a lot of young people.
“The most important thing for me is to be able to wage it in a way that makes people feel empowered and less alone.”