Detroit area teen in new Disney+ series faces racist backlash

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

Now the 12-year-old actress from metro Detroit 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 for the Novi Community School District, where Jeffries is in seventh grade.

“Leah is an amazing young lady! I’m so incredibly happy for her!” posted one person. “Congratulations, what a wonderful accomplishment!” wrote another.

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

Jeffries responded with an Instagram Live post that thanked her fans and promised she’ll stay confident. “To whoever is hating, stop doing that! Like, I know you think that’s going to hurt me though. 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 the casting of Leah has been overwhelmingly positive and joyous, as it should be. Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to 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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