Home » Why Spider-Man Star Zendaya’s The Flower Of Scotland

Why Spider-Man Star Zendaya’s The Flower Of Scotland

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As a mixed-race actress she has made a point of openly discussing her heritage, saying that her position as a ‘light-skinned black woman’ makes her Hollywood’s ‘acceptable version of a black girl’.

Now we can reveal another intriguing part of the glossy Spider-Man star Zendaya’s ancestry: her great-grandfather was a heroic WW1 soldier from Dundee.

‘Zendaya knows about her Scottish heritage and is proud of it,’ says her mother Claire Stoermer, speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail by telephone from her home in California. ‘She hasn’t been to Scotland yet, but I know she’d love to visit some time.’

As a mixed-race actress, Zendaya has made a point of openly discussing her heritage, saying that her position as a ‘light-skinned black woman’ makes her Hollywood’s ‘acceptable version of a black girl’

Now we can reveal another intriguing part of the glossy Spider-Man star Zendaya’s ancestry: her great-grandfather was a heroic WW1 soldier from Dundee

The recent premiere of the latest Spider-Man film, No Way Home, saw Zendaya – who plays Spider-Man’s girlfriend MJ – on the red carpet in a revealing Valentino cobweb dress, much to the delight of her boyfriend British actor Tom Holland, who plays Spider-Man.

It’s all a long way from nineteenth century Dundee, where, the actress’s maternal great grandfather Douglas Whitelaw was born in 1896. Then, most of the jobs in the city were in jute manufacture – but it was women, rather than men who were employed to keep costs down.

It meant Dundee had very high male unemployment, and many men were, in effect, house husbands – known rather disparagingly as ‘kettle bilers’, or kettle boilers.

It’s against this backdrop that Zendaya’s relatives decided to emigrate to Canada, as so many other Scots did at the time – first her great-great grandfather, Harry Tulloch Whitelaw, and then his son, her great-grandfather, Douglas, who made the long and arduous journey by ship, in 1911.

‘He was about 15 when he left Dundee and went to Canada, arriving first in Halifax, and then taking a train to Vancouver where his father had already set up a business as a certified public accountant,’ says Claire.

Yet that wasn’t the last time Douglas would cross the Atlantic. The family has preserved a photograph of their beloved ancestor, which Claire sends me: a black and white photograph of Douglas, in a kilt and Glengarry hat as part of his military uniform for the Canadian Highlanders. Douglas, it seems, was a patriotic soldier who volunteered for service in WW1.

The recent premiere of the latest Spider-Man film, No Way Home, in LA saw Zendaya – who plays Spider-Man’s girlfriend MJ – on the red carpet in a revealing Valentino cobweb dress

‘Zendaya knows about her Scottish heritage and is proud of it,’ says her mother Claire Stoermer, speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail by telephone from her home in California

‘He fought in the First World War for about a year,’ adds Claire. ‘He was shot in the shoulder while in the trenches and came home [to Canada] with shrapnel wounds.’

There, Douglas went on to marry Thelma Ray Kelly, a Canadian, and their baby girl – Zendaya’s future maternal grandmother – Daphne Carol, was born in Vancouver. While Douglas and his family settled permanently in Canada, his daughter Daphne – Claire’s mother – went to the US to study.

‘She met my father and that’s why the family is here,’ says Claire.

It’s this mix – Scottish and German ancestry on her mother’s side and African American on her father’s – that have contributed to Zendaya’s elfin beauty. So passionately does her Arkansas-born father feel about his own Nigerian ancestry that he changed his name from Samuel David Coleman to Kazembe Ajamu Coleman.

An astute businesswoman, Zendaya has amassed 114million followers on Instagram and 19.4million followers on Twitter.

With this, has come her own clothing and shoe line called Daya, her childhood nickname, and endorsements from a wide variety of fashion and beauty companies. Rumours abound that boyfriend Tom Holland, 25 – originally from Kingston-upon-Thames – might be about to walk her down the aisle.

An engagement ring has seemingly been ‘spotted’ and he has spoken of his desire to become a father.

So will Zendaya be making a trip to Dundee, via Kingston? Her mother hopes so. ‘When I was about 16, I went with my Mom to Scotland and we loved it,’ recalls Claire. ‘We did all the touristy stuff and we found out about the family tartan, which is called Drummond.’