Zendaya will play Mary Jane in the new 'Spider-Man,' and it's a big deal.

For the first time in Hollywood history, Spider-Man's love interest will be played by a black actress.

And she's none other than 19-year-old Zendaya — a former Disney star whose acting, modeling, and business career has taken off in recent years.

Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Essence.


The rumor mill began churning earlier this year after Zendaya was first cast, with many speculating she'd play Peter Parker's friend Michelle.

But according to an inside scoop from The Wrap, Zendaya landed the coveted role of Mary Jane Watson in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" — a character we're used to seeing with red locks and white skin.

As you can imagine, the news is certainly making waves.

Reactions from around the web began pouring in with excitement and praise, proving that casting makes a difference.

Just the thought of the new Mary Jane is brightening people's day.

In an industry that tends to exclude certain groups from the big screen, this is big.

And who knows how many little girls are celebrating the casting decision this very moment?

Of course, not all reactions were of approval. Some are arguing that a black actress would break the mold of Mary Jane's original comic book look (and they clearly aren't happy about it).

But I suggest we take a step back and give this news a little context first.

For every person of color who's portrayed a character originally written as white, there are about a million examples of the opposite.

I mean, just take a peek at this list.

Not only is Hollywood hesitant to create films directed by and starring people of color, but it also has a nasty habit of whitewashing — giving roles that should be played by actors of color to white people (think, Emma Stone playing Allison Ng in "Aloha" or Rooney Mara playing Tiger Lily — a character who's decidedly Native American — in "Pan").

These systemic problems have meant certain groups are dramatically underrepresented on the big screen.

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images.

So instead of getting our feathers ruffled over the modernizing of a comic book series, shouldn't we be celebrating an evolving, more-inclusive film industry?

After all, diversity isn't just cool for the sake of diversity — representation matters.

Everyone deserves to see themselves in the heroes that capture our hearts on-screen.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
True

It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

This article originally appeared on 12.03.19


Madeleine Albright once said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." It turns out that might actually be a hell on Earth, because women just do better when they have other women to rely on, and there's research that backs it up.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that women who have a strong circle of friends are more likely to get executive positions with higher pay. "Women who were in the top quartile of centrality and had a female-dominated inner circle of 1-3 women landed leadership positions that were 2.5 times higher in authority and pay than those of their female peers lacking this combination," Brian Uzzi writes in the Harvard Business Review.

Part of the reason why women with strong women backing them up are more successful is because they can turn to their tribe for advice. Women have to face different challenges than men, such as unconscious bias, and being able to turn to other women who have had similar experiences can help you navigate a difficult situation. It's like having a road map for your goals.

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