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Welcome to The Come-Up, where rising Gen-Z talent checks in on their way to the top. In this edition, we’re catching up with dynamic duo Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton to talk about what’s giving them joy as well as the mark that they hope to leave on the world.
You can’t talk about tennis without talking about the legacy of Venus and Serena Williams, two of the sport’s greatest players of all time. New film King Richard delves deeper into the origin story of the Compton-based tennis titans, starting with the larger-than-life dreams of their father Richard (played with vim by Will Smith). Believing that his daughters had both the talent and the work ethic to be the best of the best in the game, Richard put all of his energy into fulfilling their true potential. The end result? Thirty Grand Slam titles, millions of dollars, a place in the American Tennis Hall of Fame, and the greatest athlete of all time.
Venus and Serena’s epic journey to the top is brought to life by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, respectively, in King Richard, and the universe really couldn’t have put together a better pairing to play the iconic sisters in their youth. Just like Venus and Serena, Saniyya and Demi just click. As if they’ve known each other all of their lives, the stars tease each other, have their own secrets, and even finish each other’s sentences. That bond, formed on the set of the star-studded sports drama, speaks to the shared experience of being a child star in Hollywood — specifically to the uniqueness of growing up in the limelight as a young Black kid. While life as a child star certainly isn’t easy, Saniyya and Demi are taking the ups and downs of their challenging profession in stride, focusing instead on the impact that they believe their work will have on generations to come. The work isn’t easy, but it’s meaningful. And more importantly, they’re having fun with it.
We linked up with the King Richard stars over Zoom for a hilarious breakdown of all of their favourite things — including Beyoncé’s golden discography and their very specific fast food orders — and the noble dream that keeps them going as actors in Hollywood.
On Saniyya: Chopova Lowena top; Zara sequin mini skirt, available at zara.com; Jeffrey Campbell boots; Swarovski rings. On Demi: NorBlackNorWhite Black Heart tier dress, available at norblacknorwhite.com; Urban Outfitters socks; No Name sandals; Bonnie Clyde Show and Tell sunglasses, available at bonnieclyde.la; Zara choker.
Saniyya: Los Angeles, California
Demi: I was born in Louisiana, but I’m from New York City.
Demi: Pisces — the greatest sign of all!
Saniyya: High school basketball player Mikey Williams. He’s very…talented.
Demi: That means she thinks he’s cute! Mine is a mirror selfie with my best friend at Flipper’s in New York City.
Where you’ve seen me
Saniyya: The Roots remake, Hidden Figures, Fences, or American Horror Story: Roanoke
Demi: On Broadway (School of Rock and in The Lion King as young Nala) or Godfather of Harlem
Where you’ll see me next
Saniyya and Demi: King Richard!
NorBlackNorWhite All Hearts tier dress, norblacknorwhite.com; Urban Outfitters stockings; No Name boots; Bonnie Clyde sunglasses.
Cause I’m passionate about
Saniyya: BLM, supporting kids at St. Jude’s Hospital, and alleviating animal endangerment.
Demi: Feminism and racial equity.
Saniyya: It’s Princess Tiana and Wonder Woman for me.
Demi: Omg same — I dressed up as Princess Tiana every Halloween and had the bedspread! But I also really love Black Widow from the MCU.
Saniyya: In-N-Out, specifically animal style fries with extra cheese. (I’m a vegetarian.)
Demi: A 12-piece chicken nugget, a large fry, and a lemonade from Chick-fil-A with buffalo, Polynesian, and Chick-fil-A sauce.
Saniyya: My mom and my manager who’s been like my second mom since we’ve worked together. Professionally, I’d say Kerry Washington and Viola Davis.
Demi: All the women in my family who have molded me into the person I am today and taught me to go after my dreams. But also Beyoncé and Halle Berry.
Song I know all the lyrics to
Saniyya: I was obsessed with One Direction growing up, so I’d have to say “Drag Me Down.”
Demi: Literally any Beyoncé song — I’m clearly part of the BeyHive — but I’ll go with “Love Drought”.
Saniyya: Baking! Shoutout to my mom for getting me that Easy Bake oven when I was seven.
Demi: Fashion, but specifically shopping and styling clothes.
Leeann Huang coat; Zara turtleneck; Area pants; No Name sneakers; Bonnie Clyde sunglasses; Urban Outfitters earrings, Urban Outfitters rings.
Couple I stanned
Saniyya: Darius and Nina from Love Jones.
Demi: Meredith Grey and Derek from Grey’s Anatomy.
Teen show I loved
Saniyya: Vampire Diaries
Time I saw myself represented in TV/film
Saniyya: Venus and Serena’s tennis matches. I remember watching them play and telling my mom I wanted beads in my hair, too.
Demi: China Anne McClain on Disney Channel’s Ant Farm. I really connected with her being a singer who also loved to act because that’s literally me.
How I want to change the world
Saniyya: I want the roles that I take on to inspire people because there are so many actors that have inspired me. I can’t wait for little kids to see Demi and I onscreen and say, “Wow, these girls can be in the movies and do what they love, so I’m gonna go out there and follow my dreams too!” I just want to inspire the younger generations to do what they love.
Demi: For me, I want to change the world by sharing stories that matter. As an actress, it’s my job to be part of stories and projects that tell important stories, specifically ones by Black writers who haven’t always had the opportunity to share before. I think doing that can educate the world and make it a better place.
Saniyya: An action role for sure. I’d love a situation where it’s up to me and another person to save the world from total destruction while lifting cars above our heads. Something where I can kick butt but be very beautiful and poised at the same time.
Demi: I’m such a big superhero fan, so I think something similar to the storyline of Black Widow would be fun — helping save the world while also figuring out where I fit in in society.
On Saniyya: Sandro trench coat; Zara top; Zara pants; No Name boots; Zara earrings; Zara choker. On Demi: Zara button-down; Dauphinette strawberry chainmail crop, available at nordstrom.com; Double XX Collection jeans; Dr. Martens boots.
If I weren’t acting…?
Saniyya: Hmm. I’d still want to be in the limelight because I want to inspire people…I think a celebrity chef. Maybe having my own cooking show and giving my audience tips on how to become better in the kitchen.
Demi: I’ve really never pictured myself doing anything outside of the arts, honestly. So if not acting, probably something just as creative like a director, producer, or something to do with fashion.
Dream dinner guest
Saniyya: I’d really like to sit down and have a conversation with Princess Diana. When you watch certain documentaries and shows about her life, it’s clear that she felt very misunderstood. I think it’s really important for people to have someone to talk to in times like that, someone who would allow them to let their hair down and be themselves. I’d want to be that for Princess Di and give her the space to be and say whatever she wanted, even just for a little while.
Demi: It would have to be Nina Simone and Maya Angelou. Those two women were just so iconic and gave so much to the Black community. From Maya Angelou, I’d love to pick her brain and just gain some wisdom, and with Nina Simone…I’d just like to make her laugh and give her some happiness.
On Demi: Serpenti trench; Zara houndstooth blazer dress, available at zara.com; Urban Outfitters stockings; No Name boots; Zara beret; Swarovski rings. On Saniyya: Topshop leather jacket; Cult Gaia Vivek top, available at cultgaia.com; Cult Gaia Wynn pant, available at cultgaia.com; No Name sneakers; Bonnie Clyde off-white & pink plum plum sunglasses, available at ssense.com; Urban Outfitters necklace; Urban Outfitters earrings.
How I want my audience to feel
Saniyya: I really want people to take their kids to see King Richard because it’s an amazing family movie. If you’re between the ages of 6 and 10, you’re growing up and seeing just how different people are and what they expect from you, especially if you’re a young Black girl. We get told so much about what we’re supposed to be in this world, so it’s important to have people around us to lift us up and help us become who we want to be. And for parents, I hope that they view Richard and Oracene (Aunjanue Ellis) as parents who were preparing Venus and Serena to be the best that they could be and then apply that at home with their kids. Like, “When you step out of this house, I want you to have goals like Venus and Serena did.”
Demi: I’d like people to better understand Richard Williams. I feel like he was a misunderstood man, and this movie will finally allow people to see why he did the things he did and how great he actually was. His plan worked — his kids are some of the greatest athletes in the world! — and I think this movie will give people a chance to understand his motives.
Words of advice
Saniyya: Have fun! It’s important for the work to be as fun as it is powerful. That’s also why getting to play Venus and Serena was so much freedom for us — and why Richard made sure they had fun with tennis before it ever became a job.
Demi: Also, don’t take everything so seriously. You can see that Saniyya and I are just a pair of goofballs. Don’t be so serious in life because…well, being serious all the time just sucks, honestly. Have fun and do what you love. Who cares what anyone says anyway?
Saniyya: Just do you.
Demi: Just do you, boo.
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