The 22-year-old actress covers Paper's latest issue and reveals that she's all-in on her acting career, but has no plans to drop new music anytime soon.
"I think the [music] industry takes a little bit of passion away from you. It sucks you dry a little bit," she says. "What I thought I wanted, it's not what I want anymore, [especially] when I think about what I had to deal with in the music industry."
"If anyone asks my number one advice, for [the entertainment] industry in general but mostly the music industry, it's look over those contracts, every single word, and don't sign anything that isn't worth it to you," she adds. "You are worth more than they will say that you are."
While her acting career is at its height thanks to roles in The Greatest Showman and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Zendaya has found her Disney past to be a bit of a hindrance when it comes to landing such parts.
"Having a Disney past sometimes makes it difficult for people to take you seriously," Zendaya, who starred on the Disney shows Shake It Up and K.C. Undercover, says. "I'm in the phase of learning and watching and trying to absorb as much as I can."
With a new role on HBO's Euphoria, Zendaya says a final goodbye to her Disney self as she plays Rue, a teenage addict who struggles with anxiety and depression.
"I finally felt like I was doing something that I could push myself [with]. But always you're still going to have that doubt, and [I'm] still in my head, like, 'Wait, can I do it?'" she says of taking on the role.
"... The show to me is not that shocking. I know a lot of 17-year-olds that are going through this," she adds of the series, which covers topics including sex, drugs, dating and mental health. "We're not more shocking than things that have happened in Game of Thrones. What is shocking is that we're not used to seeing [young people's experiences portrayed] so viscerally and so honestly... I felt so worried about proving myself. It was very scary."
Off-screen, encouraging mental health has been an important cause for Zendaya, who praises her peers for their openness on the subject.
"I think definitely there's been, at least amongst my peers, a certain [emphasis] on not just mental health but self-care and opening up to other experiences," she says. "That, in turn, makes you feel like you're not alone if you are dealing with it. It makes you feel heard and not so isolated."
"... I tweet things like, 'Hey, go take care of yourself and check in on your friends.' You can tell that to people all you want, but that doesn't mean they're actually going to be able to do it," she adds, before discussing some of her own struggles. "... For me, it's all about putting things in perspective. My brain always goes to the worst possible scenario, so sometimes I don't actually enjoy how big and exciting things are. I did the Tommy Hilfiger show and it was a huge success, but I couldn't enjoy it until weeks after because I was so impossibly stressed about what people thought about it."
"Sometimes I feel amazing for a long time and then it hits you, and it's like, this is rising. I can't describe it," she continues. "I feel awful. And then you gotta figure out how to get over it, and then everything's great again. I highly recommend going to a therapist if you can. If that's something that is possible for you."
While she continues to discover and work on herself, Zendaya is leaving her future career options wide open.
"What kind of stories do I want to tell? What kind of opportunities can I give? How can I make the change, how can I add more voices? Am I going to want to direct, am I going to want to write it?" Zendaya says of the questions she asks herself.
"... There's this misconstrued idea that once you make it, there's only room for yourself. I disagree. Once you're able to make room for yourself, you try to make as many freakin' rooms as you can," she says. "I'm still in the beginning of my career and I don't have all the power in the world, because at the end of the day, a lot of the power still lies with people who have been making stuff since before I was born, who are one narrative and one color. Now, it's just about getting to that point where I can do that on my own. If I wait for things to happen, they might not ever happen."