image source: Gage Skidmore (found with Google image search)
This is Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman, who uses her first name alone as her stage name. She does a lot of productions for the Disney Channel, most notably for our purposes the title character in the show KC Undercover. She’s an actress, a singer with actual CDs to her name, and a dancer. Replace the last two with “supermodel” and you can see why she might have been chosen to play Mary Jane Watson (by Disney-owned Marvel) in the newest Spider-Man continuity when the Marvel flagship character finally gets to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man: Homecoming once again sends Peter back to high school because he who controls the origin controls the power, and despite the fact that the character hasn’t been to high school since One More Day also wiped out his teaching career from continuity, some writers just want to write that story. It’s been happening since at least Ultimate Spider-Man in the comics and Spectacular Spider-Man on TV.
And of course because of her race Zendaya playing the Caucasian Mary Jane Watson has people up in arms. Look, I’ve countered the racial issue in this matter again and again and I’m tired of talking about it. There will always be that group that refuses to understand that we want the actor to look like the character they’re portraying not out of racism but because we want a proper adaptation. Especially in comics and other visual media we KNOW what the character looks like, so it only makes sense to find an actor who looks like that character. Maybe someday we’ll get a live-action Jimmy Olsen that looks like Jimmy Olsen. The best we’ve gotten is people who act like him, and even that’s rare outside of cartoons. However…
I actually think she can pull it off. Zendaya has a black father and white mother and her skin is light enough that she can get away with both or playing a character of mixed race, which she is. I’m not sure which she’ll play as MJ’s backstory, but the question is not how she’ll do in the movie, but the impact she’ll have on the comics. And I think it’s a good one.