"It's important to raise your voice about issues you feel affected by," Zendaya says of the alleged incident at a grocery store

By Jordan Runtagh
Updated September 12, 2016 12:45 PM
Paul Morigi/Getty

Zendaya took to Snapchat last Tuesday to claim that she was the victim of racism at a Vons supermarket – and now she’s explaining why she decided to speak out.

“It’s important to raise your voice about issues you feel affected by,” the 20-year-old star told PEOPLE at the Michael Kors Access Smartwatch launch in New York City Sunday night. “It happens to African-American men and women every day.”

The alleged incident began when a clerk apparently refused to serve the Spider-Man: Homecoming actress and her friend. “The lady that was helping us… I don’t think she was a huge fan of our skin tone,” she said in her Snapchat.

When she attempted to purchase $400 worth of gift cards, Zendaya alleged the clerk shot her a hostile glance. “‘You can’t afford this,’ is how she looked at me,” she said. Then she claims the clerk threw her wallet, causing her cards to fall out.

“I can’t make this s— up!” Zendaya continued on the social media platform. “This is what we deal with…”

A rep for the grocery store chain addressed the incident in a statement to PEOPLE: “At Vons, we strive to treat each and every customer with the utmost respect. There is a policy that limits gift card purchases using a credit card. Zendaya was able to purchase gift cards up to our limit, and we apologize for any inconvenience or misunderstanding.”

“We respect Zendaya’s voice in the community and similarly are committed to diversity and inclusion,” the statement continued. “Moreover, we understand that race is a sensitive issue in America and view this experience as a reminder that every interaction is an opportunity to treat each customer as we ourselves would like to be treated.”