Welcome: Letitia Wright

once watched a movie about a young black girl, and it profoundly changed her life. After seeing Keke Palmer in Akeelah and the Bee as a teen, the Guyanese-born Londoner started to embrace the possibility of a career as an actress. It's why, almost 10 years later, she views her character Shuri — the tech-genius princess in Marvel's Black Panther — as a full-circle moment.

"I hope that Shuri opens up a new way of thinking for young girls in terms of careers and subjects in the academic world. I wish I watched movies like Hidden Figures when I was a kid, and maybe I would've taken science classes super seriously, because I saw myself,” she tells Teen Vogue on the set of our Young Hollywood shoot. “I can only hope that Shuri can encourage a lot of girls to be a part of subjects in school like science and math and technology."

It's not often that a teen princess is the STEM prodigy of a technologically advanced society. It’s even rarer that a science whiz comes off as charming & effervescent. Letitia was intentional about playing a multilayered character, revered for both her brilliant mind & her infectious sense of humor. “She has these titles to her name — princess of Wakanda, scientist, engineer, but she’s still able to relate to people. She’s still a normal kid that would want to go to Coachella or follow memes online,” Letitia explains. The film’s A-list cast includes Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman & Michael B. Jordan, but it was Letitia who stole every scene she was in. It was moments like her spot-on delivery of “What are thoooose?” directed at T’Challa’s shoes & her complaint that her corset was uncomfortable during his coronation ceremony that had audiences roaring with laughter.

Beyond being a huge success at the box office, Black Panther was also treated as a cultural event, with people dressing up in African garb and dancing in theaters to celebrate the film.

“We all knew the potential it had in terms of inspiring people,” says Letitia. “We went in with the attitude of just telling the truth of the story, taking inspiration from different parts of African countries, whether it's the Zulu tribe or the Ashanti tribe, anywhere we could find true depictions of queens and kings in Africa itself. To be able to be a part of it and everyone receiving it so well, I'm just super happy and grateful.”

 She acknowledges that in 2018, it’s still groundbreaking for black people to be depicted as royal, powerful forces onscreen and not as criminals or slaves. “Filming was really a good experience because we haven't seen so many stories like this before. I pray that it continues and we can have more films like it.”

Indeed, the world was ready for a movie like Black Panther. Movements demanding representation and gender equality have recently catalyzed change in the film industry, with conversations like #OscarsSoWhite and #TimesUp making a profound impact.

“I’m really proud of the Time’s Up movement, and I hope it continues and it grows stronger and that it can really be established,” Letitia says. “I hope that 100 years down the line we still have a movement that's strong enough to defend people that may need it. And not just for girls in Hollywood but for someone else who may be on a farm picking fruits every day and dealing with something they shouldn't be dealing with and having no sort of help.”

In 10 years, Letitia prays young Hollywood is “a healthy environment” where women have “equal pay” and actors treat each other with respect. “I pray the conversations that we're having now are in full effect and we see the results of it for many years to come.”