Claire Stoermer

The entrepreneur and elementary school teacher Claire Stoermer, who is better-known for being the mother of Hollywood and Disney Channel darling Zendaya, was born in Oakland, California, USA, on 24th March 1964.

Claire was brought up alongside five siblings by her parents Philip Hillary and Daphne Carol Whitelaw. After matriculating from Oakland High School, she obtained a degree from Santa Clara University.

Claire began working as an elementary school teacher in 1990. Eight years later, she became a house manager at the California Shakespeare Theatre, as well as a trainer in the theatre’s student program. Her daughter, Zendaya, performed at the same theatre and would help her mother sell raffle tickets.

Speaking to Teen Vogue in November 2016, Zendaya discussed her mother’s job at the theater at length, saying: “She would introduce them to the arts, guide them through the language of Shakespeare, and show them the wonders of nature outside city life – all things that they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.” She also cited her mother as her greatest inspiration, saying that if she wasn’t in the entertainment industry, she would have become a teacher.

Currently, Claire is working at Fruitville Elementary School.

Personal Life

Not much is known regarding the ins and outs of Claire’s relationship with Kazembe Ajamu Coleman, but we can surmise that they met sometime in the 1990s. In 1996, they welcomed their only daughter together, Zendaya; Kazembe had five other children at the time: Katianna, Annabella, Austin, Kaylee, and Julien.

Claire and Kazembe tied the knot in 2008 when their daughter was 12 years old. However, the teacher filed for divorce in 2016, citing irreconcilable differences. When the news broke, Zendaya tweeted that her parents had been separated for a long time, adding: “Y’all didn’t know cause we private and they still homies” [sic]. The divorce between Claire and Kazembe was a speedy and amicable one, with Claire declining to ask him for spousal support.

There are no hints of Claire having a new love in her life, but her ex-husband, who she remains on good terms with to this day, was spotted on a date with actress Niki McElroy in June 2021. The former couple often come together to support their daughter at high-profile events such as movie premieres or awards shows.

Claire has an active social media presence, with over 125,000 Instagram followers. Most of her posts are focused on promoting her jewelry line, Kizzmet Jewelry, but her feed is also full of vacation snaps or sweet photos of her pet dogs, Tiger and Daisy.

Recently, Claire was seen looking much slimmer, leading to speculation that she was on a secret health journey. Although figures vary, most sources claim that Zendaya’s mother is 5ft 6in tall (167cm) and currently weighs about 145lbs (66kgs).

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As the parent of a public figure, Claire has often been the target of unwelcome scrutiny and criticism; in 2015, an internet troll cruelly said that they’d “cry” if their parents looked like Zendaya’s, to which the actress replied by saying: “While you’re so concerned about what my parents look like, please know that these are two of the most selfless people in the world.” The “Spiderman” star added that her parents had chosen to dedicate their lives to teaching and cultivating young minds, instead of insulting people’s parents on Twitter.

Kazembe and Zendaya

Kazembe Ajamu was born in the USA in the 1960s, but prefers to keep his birthday, birthplace and other details private. The businessman and manager has Nigerian, Macedonian, and even Icelandic roots; he’s believed to have met Claire through work, as he also became an elementary school teacher after graduating from college.

Over the years, Zendaya has often credited her parents for her success and spoken on their positive influence in her life. When she had to move to Los Angeles after landing a role in “Shake It Up”, the young actress still saw her mother every week; Kazembe, meanwhile, travelled with her as her manager, and was always present on set to make sure everything ran smoothly.

In 2017, fans of Zendaya were surprised to learn that she was still living at home, despite being 20 years old at the time. The interview with Ellen DeGeneres opened up a can of worms, as netizens were led to believe that Claire and Kazembe were also living under the same roof after their divorce. Without clarifying, Zendaya merely said that they made things work by respecting each other’s place and having healthy boundaries. Shortly afterwards, she moved into a beautiful $1.4 million property in Los Angeles.

Despite Zendaya being inspired by her mother, it was her father Kazembe who put the hard work into managing her career, and getting her name out there since 2009. Some of Zendaya’s first jobs included working as a back-up dancer for a Sears campaign, and modelling for Macy’s and Old Navy; shortly afterwards, she was cast as Rocky Blue in “Shake It Up” after her stellar performance of Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone”.

Zendaya’s career skyrocketed when “Shake It Up” premiered in November 2010. With over six million viewers, the pilot episode became Disney Channel’s second highest-rated premiere in history, which also helped Zendaya become a household name. Capitalizing on the moment, Kazembe helped his daughter release an independent promotional single, “Swag It Out”, which was followed up by her June 2011 song “Watch Me”.

In 2012, Zendaya signed to Hollywood Records and did three songs for the soundtrack of “Live 2 Dance” – “Same Heart”, “Fashion Is My Kryptonite”, and “Made in Japan”. As an actress, singer, and dancer, the young starlet was dubbed a “triple threat” and a rising talent to watch, predictions which would become true in the following years.

Some of Zendaya’s career highlights of that time include her first film role in “Frenemies”, her historical participation as the youngest-ever contestant on “Dancing with The Stars”, and her groundbreaking performance at the Teen Musical Festival. In September 2013, she released a self-titled album which received fairly positive reviews.

In 2016, Zendaya left music behind to focus on her real passion: acting. Her feature film debut came in July 2017 with a role in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”; Zendaya decided not to wear make-up during filming or to her screen test, adding her own twist to the role of Michelle. Shortly afterwards, she played Zac Efron’s love interest in “The Greatest Showman”, which is the third-highest grossing live-action musical in history to date.

Currently, Zendaya’s most recognizable role is that of Rue in “Euphoria”, the controversial HBO series which has run for two seasons. Recurring themes in the series include substance abuse, sex, and mental health issues.

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