Welcome to Byrdie's new series, Next Gen, where we profile Gen Z celebrities, influencers, and entrepreneurs. As a collective, members of Gen Z are dynamic trendsetters and culture shifters. And when it comes to beauty and wellness, they have ushered more creativity, inclusivity, and transparency into the industry. In this column, we're stepping into the minds of some of the most notable Gen Z'ers to learn more about how they are redefining beauty, the products they swear by, and their plans for the future.
What do you get when you mix style, class, drama, romance, and Black excellence on one television screen? Bel-Air, the Peacock reboot of the iconic sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Will Smith-produced show has garnered immense buzz, becoming one of the most outstanding drama series in 2022. Now, the second season is here, and fans are excited (and anxious) to watch the rise and fall of its beloved characters, from Hillary's journey to self-definition to the ebb and flow of Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil's relationship. But, of course, we also can't forget to mention the youngest of the Banks bunch, Ashley, played by 16-year-old Akira Akbar.
In each episode, Akbar skillfully showcases the ins and outs of Banks' life as a young adult—from defining her sexuality to using her voice as a young activist in her community—and her performance on the show has made her one-to-watch in Young Hollywood. Ahead, Akbar discusses how the Peacock reboot demonstrates Black excellence, how she would define Ashley Banks' aesthetic, and how her generation is redefining self-care.
How did The Fresh Prince shape your appreciation for Bel-Air before you scored the audition?
I loved the family dynamic on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It was so special. We really recreated that pretty well. We've all just become a super close family.
How would you say Bel-Air demonstrates Black excellence and the power of Black beauty?
We demonstrate Black excellence and Black beauty so well, especially with the stories we tell. Black storytelling is super important to the world of Bel-Air. This season, Ashley finds herself in a new position, thanks to her teacher, who gives her books to read. The story gives the audience insight into Ashley's path [to] becoming an activist in the Black community.
In your opinion, how does Bel-Air Ashley Banks differ from Fresh Prince Ashley Banks?
It differs because it's such a different time now. The Fresh Prince was in the '90s, and Bel-Air is happening now. We cover many issues teenagers are dealing with now, especially teens in the LGBTQ+ community. It's important to show that on screen, and I'm glad they're putting stories like this in shows because it helps people understand that they're not alone.
How would you define Bel-Air Ashley's style?
It's not too girly and not too tomboy. As a queer woman, she really steps out of the box with her style.
What do you love the most about Tatyana Ali's version of Ashley Banks?
Oh my gosh, I loved her style. It's a lot like Hillary's because she looked up to Hillary. There's a similar thing happening this season. Ashley has a lot of pieces that are similar to Hillary's style.
Which character do you think has the best style in Bel-Air?
The best style? I would definitely say Hillary. I love her style. Her outfits are something I would actually wear. I also love Ashley's style.
How do you practice self-care when you're not on set?
Well, I don't live in L.A., so when I'm not filming, I go home and relax. I don't really go out because I live so far, so I take time to focus on myself and take care of what I need to do.
How would you say Gen Z is redefining what self-care means?
We are starting to [develop a closer relationship with] self-care, especially after quarantine. We all were isolated, and now we're going back outside, but we realized it's important to take time for ourselves and focus on what we need.
What are some of your favorite TikTok beauty and fashion hacks?
I recently saw people using pink powder. I've never really seen that before. When I saw it, I was like, I really want to try that. That's kind of cool.
What are some of your beauty must-haves?
For skincare, I recently started using the Cerave Cleanser Bar, and I love it. It leaves my skin looking good. I also use a moisturizer from Osea and a toner from Paula's Choice. I mostly use Melanin Haircare, K-18, and Living Proof products in my hair.
What beauty hacks have you learned while being on the set of Bel-Air?
One of the hairstylists taught me if you have flakes in your hair from braids, you can put a bald cap over a brush and then run the brush over your hair to get the flakes out. We've been using that trick this season because I've been wearing braids most of the time. It's a really good hack.