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May 23, 2022 6:11 AM EDT

To me, Zendaya is a thousand years old. She has already lived many lives before this one. And yet, she is as young as springtime. By some inextricable paradox, she also gives the impression of having been born sometime far into the future. She is timeless, and she can do it all.

In just the past year or so, Zendaya has radiated like a shooting star captured on celluloid in Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie. She emotionally exploded as her teenage years disintegrated in Levinson’s cultural phenomenon Euphoria. She shone in Spider-Man: No Way Home, a movie that dominated the box office in a year when she became the muse of extremes.

But Zendaya is much more than that. She is an autonomous creative force herself. A cultural icon in the making. A person driven by pure inspiration, empathy, and respect for her craft, who uses authenticity as a new superpower. She seems fearless, her roots run deep, and I love that she still laughs like a kid. Zendaya is the future. And there is nothing more comforting to me. This is only the beginning.

Villeneuve is a director, most recently of Dune

Photograph by Camila Falquez for TIME

Styled by Law Roach; hair by Antoinette Hill; make-up by Sheika Daley

Get a print of the 2022 TIME100 cover featuring Zendaya

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