The first film in the series, Authenticity, features triple-threat Zendaya almost a decade prior to her atmospheric turn in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (2021).
In 2013, a 17 year old Zendaya was completing her tenure in the Disney kid-com Shake It Up, releasing her first album, and about to become the youngest contestant to participate in Dancing with the Stars—where she would finish as a runner-up—up until then. This was, in short, the year in which the mononym Zendaya finally became a household name.
Auerbach’s photoshoot for Flaunt is a precise testament to that moment. He is alert to the fact that he is capturing not just a likeness but a resonance, and this is reflected in a photo set that shows a rising star already fully poised for superstardom. Appropriately, the framing of the session is carnivalesque, focusing not on precedent but on the strength of the actress’s presence. Against the banged-up backdrop of a bombed-out basement, Zendaya sports a headdress of black peacock feathers with the effortlessness of a seasoned headliner.
The master photo came to Auerbach as an epiphany, with such clarity that he was able to communicate—and shoot it—in the dark.
The authenticity in the Zendaya series is not only found in the subject, with her signature admixture of freshness and sophistication. It is coded in the silent and complicit rapport between her and the photographer, and so it is also the object, and objective, of the pictures.