Detroit-area teenager in new Disney+ series faces racist backlash

Leah Sava Jeffries landed her first major role at age 5 in Fox’s “Empire.”

Now, the 12-year-old Metro Detroit actress will star in the upcoming Disney+ series “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”

The news was greeted with pride and good wishes on the Facebook page of the Novi Community School District, where Jeffries is in seventh grade.

“Leah is an incredible young woman! I am incredibly happy for her! posted a person. “Congratulations, what a great achievement!” writes another.

She also seems strong beyond her years. Since her casting was announced on Variety last week, Jeffries has faced all-too-familiar ugliness on social media to be a black actress cast as a character portrayed as white in the “Percy Jackson” books.

Jeffries responded with an Instagram Live post that thanked her fans and promised that she would remain confident. “To those who hate, stop doing this! Like, I know you think it’s going to hurt me. It’s not. You’re just wasting time,” she said.

‘Percy Jackson’ author Rick Riordan denounced the racist criticism on his blog and wrote, “The response to Leah’s casting has been overwhelmingly positive and joyful, as it should be. Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm for this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.”

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