QUEEN OF COOL
Singer, actress, style icon, renegade… Zoë Kravitz is our ultimate girl crush.
has the kind of magnetism that practically shouts, “This woman is a star!” She’s distractingly, other-worldly beautiful. She’s the spawn of two of the coolest people on the planet, Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz. This is a girl who knows how to milk a step-and-repeat in a slinky white Calvin Klein number and a voluminous rainbow Dior gown with equal aplomb. And she’s a damn talented actress. Which is why, looking back, it’s amazing to consider that for the better part of the past decade, she hovered in a kind of Hollywood up-and-comer limbo, playing supporting roles in blockbusters like the Divergent movies, X-men: First Class and Mad Max: Fury Road (a pre-breakout part of sorts – she certainly held her own in scenes with the also-so-beautiful-it’s-unfair Rosie Huntington-whiteley). But inevitably, thankfully, 2017 happened, and with it, Big Little Lies – HBO’S Emmy- and Golden Globe-crushing miniseries in which Kravitz, 29, played the luminous hippie-turned-hero Bonnie. Now Kravitz – in her rightful place on the A-list – is showing no signs of losing ground (she’ll soon appear opposite Johnny Depp in the sequel to the JK Rowling-written Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, for one). Kravitz’s friend Janelle Monáe is similarly versed in the art of the well-earned breakthrough, having released her first critically acclaimed EP back in 2003 but not reaching household-name status until starring in (and singing on the soundtrack of) 2016’s Hidden Figures. As the daughter of a truck driver and a janitor, the 32-year-old Kansas City native had a markedly different upbringing to Kravitz. Yet as actress-singers (Kravitz fronts electro-pop band Lolawolf when she’s not making movies), style savants and black women in the entertainment industry, Monáe and Kravitz have much in common. Here, Monáe interviews Kravitz for her ELLE cover story.
JANELLE MONÁE: Let’s start here: I saw you in the flesh for the first time in 2008 at Afropunk [festival]. My band was playing, and maybe 20 people were invited. I remember you dancing, and I was like, “Oh my God, Zoë Kravitz is in the front row of our show.”
ZOË KRAVITZ: I can’t believe you knew who I was.
JM: Yes! And then your band Elevator Fight played.
ZK: Oh my God. Yes. My first band. JM: Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz, your parents, are such cool individuals. What was your childhood like with them?
ZK: It’s funny, because to everyone else, it’s like, “What are they like?” And I don’t have anyone else to compare them to. They were strict in the normal ways – bedtimes and eating my vegetables and cleaning my room and “Yes ma’am, no ma’am.” And then there was, of course, a bunch of extraordinary parts: being surrounded by extraordinary people, going to extraordinary places. Also, people recognising your father or your mum when you’re just going to get icecream – it’s bizarre.
JM: What’s your answer to people who assume because your parents are incredibly creative, well-known and wellconnected that everything has been handed to you?
ZK: I understand where that notion comes from 100 per cent. And there were some things that were handed to me. I got an agent pretty quickly out of high school. But once you get past that door – a hard door for a lot of people to open – a lot of directors don’t care who your family is. When you’re doing movies with Jodie Foster or Charlize Theron, you don’t need the daughter of some celebrity to make the movie better. I spent years auditioning and not working and playing very small parts.
JM: We’re both musicians and actors. Is there a different way that you structure your persona as a musician than as an actor?
ZK: Yes. For me – and this is different than for you, because you tour and you put out records; it’s not a side project – with music, I feel a little more vulnerable. What you say or how you look onstage is just you.
JM: Do you remember that moment when you said, “I want to be in movies”? I remember watching a lot of Edward Scissorhands and other Tim Burton films, and clicking with the characters.
ZK: I love that Tim Burton was your gateway. You should definitely be in a Tim Burton film.
JM: It’s hard. He has made some comments. [In 2016, Burton said of diversity in casting: “Things either call for things or they don’t.”] I haven’t seen a lot of people of colour in his movies. When I was little, I was naive, but being in the industry, we need to have a conversation about that. I was disappointed, but I’m still a fan of his movies.
ZK: It’s the same with Woody Allen, who I grew up loving. You get older and realise, “Oh, you don’t put black people in your movies. It’s set in New York!” It’s just crazy. JM: What made you say, “I want to act”?
ZK: I didn’t grow up with television. We had a TV, but it wasn’t connected to anything except for a VCR. My mum and I would go to the video store, and I was allowed to watch, like, one movie a weekend. I was an only child, and your imagination goes crazy. These films kind of became my friends. When I got older, my mum would show me, like, Sophie’s Choice. Like, “Want to see some crazy shit?”
JM: We have so much in common. I also created these alternate universes. We had TV, but I grew up in Kansas – a workingclass family where sometimes our lights would be cut off. My sister and I shared a room until it was time for me to go to college. I’d be making up stories and dancing, with her telling me to shut up, which made me want to sing and act more. You’ve recently been a part of Big Little
Lies. Congratu-fucking-lations on that. A year ago, you told ELLE you were nervous about working alongside such well-established actresses. Has your confidence level changed since filming?
ZK: I got cast quickly, so I didn’t have time to process it, then all of a sudden I was like, “Wait, I’m getting to work with who?” Women like Laura [Dern] and Nicole [Kidman] and Reese [Witherspoon] – I’ve grown up watching them, and to me they’re just untouchable. I had nightmares about them being like, “Oh no, you’re not good; you should go home.” But they were so encouraging. When those women are in your corner, it gives you a pep in your step.
JM: Let’s get into some beauty, because we’re speaking to ELLE. You’re this chameleon. And it doesn’t feel forced. Whenever I look on your Instagram or see you on the red carpet, it’s like its own genre – the Zoë Kravitz genre. How do you feed your evolution as a style icon?
ZK: I remember when my grandmother died, and after the funeral, I wanted to make my mum laugh. So I put on a suit, drew on a moustache, put on “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica, and performed as the boy. It was weird, but it made her crack up. For me, clothes are a gateway to characters. I watch Audrey Hepburn movies and I’m like, “I want to do my makeup like that.” I watch Stand By Me and I think, “I want to look like a boy.”
JM: When I got into the industry, people were telling me, “You’re a girl, so you need to show up in dresses and be a conventional artist.” And I, like you, wasn’t going to allow someone to tell me that if I don’t do this, I won’t succeed. The last time I saw you was around the Emmys. How has your life changed this past year?
ZK: I got to spend a lot of time at home during the first half, which was a nice change. My boyfriend [actor Karl Glusman] moved in with me. That’s new territory. And I worked the second half of the year nonstop. I’m realising how important it is to find a balance so that I continue being an artist who has something to offer.
JM: People may not know this, but you and I have the same birthday [December 1]! ZK: We’re birthday sisters! JM: Yeah, birthday twins, and there are absolutely a lot of similarities that I’m like, “Wow.” We have a straight-upness that I don’t see a lot in this industry. It’s like, “I don’t want to be a bullshitter.” Do you find that people can mistake you for being too cold at times?
ZK: Yeah, especially in America, and especially as a woman in America, and then especially as a black woman in America. It’s good to be polite, but it’s important to be honest. There’s a difference between saying hurtful things and being like, “This may be a little uncomfortable, but no.” Or, “Please remove your hand from my lower back.” Or, “You made a weird joke. Why did you make that joke?” JM: Exactly. Do you have illegal fantasies? ZK: Illegal? Like, I wish I could do that, but it’s illegal? I would push Trump off a cliff. If it was legal, which it’s not, so I won’t, but if he was on a cliff and I was on the cliff, too, and it was legal, I might trip him.
JM: You’re so my birthday twin. I want to talk about when you and I went to dinner with a mutual friend. There were two guys sitting across from us talking extremely loud, like they were at a football game. One of the guys started to make remarks about how our friend looked like The Weeknd... ZK: And how you were so cute and tiny. JM: And how I look like Kerry Washington – which, she’s gorgeous, but it was just so rude, the manner in which he did it. He glossed over the fact that we were having an intimate conversation.
ZK: They were just a prime example of people like Trump, for who there are no rules – like, “I own everything, I can do whatever I want.”
JM: So you turned to him and were like, “Listen, buddy, please don’t interrupt our conversation.” And he continued. And I found out Zoë Kravitz is not to be fucked with. You got up and went to a hostess...
ZK: I was like, “This dude needs to go!” They asked him to leave, and he gave me the finger and called me a c***.
JM: I just want to say thank you for not backing down to that narcissistic, egotistical fuck man – he’s not a boy, he’s a man. He’s a bully. Which brings me to my next question: Harvey Weinstein. Was this a surprise to you?
ZK: It’s a surprise to me in that I did not know the specifics. Did I hear that he was a questionable person and feel that energy from him when I met him? Of course. It’s like I’m shocked and not shocked – such a strange feeling. This world, especially our industry, allows room for this kind of behaviour from powerful men. You look at someone like Harvey or Trump or Bill Cosby. They’re all the best at what they do, in some way or another. And there’s a connection with people who have zero regard for others and think that everything already belongs to them. Being a woman in this industry, you’re asked to ride this line between being professional and allowing a certain level of flirtation. And if you’re not like, “Oh yeah, I’m giggling at your jokes, and it’s okay that your hand is on my thigh,” then you’re a bitch, you know? Where do we draw the line?
JM: Right. Have you ever had a moment where you felt intimidated [by a man at work]?
ZK: I had one moment when I was 18 or 19 – on one of my first films. A director came on to me – and I almost feel like I brushed it off as okay. I declined but didn’t handle it the way I would have handled it now. Knowing that this is a grown-ass man with a family who knows I don’t have the power here – I’m an up-and-coming actress and he’s an established director.
JM: Do you think it’s worse for black women in this industry when we speak up? We’re not getting the majority of roles out there, we’re not allowed certain lead parts.
ZK: If you have any kind of oppression, it causes this fear, so if you’re a woman of colour, you’re already on edge about, “Will I work again?” It just adds to why you can’t have a voice or make a scene.
JM: What I love most that is happening now is this sisterhood that’s forming. How important is sisterhood to you in this industry?
ZK: So important, especially in an industry where the women are taught to compete with each other – and that is just poison.
JM: I didn’t understand the importance of sisterhood until I got into the industry and started to feel alone. I felt like this creative black girl who was going against the grain. After meeting you and having a big sister like Erykah Badu, I feel like, “Wow, I’m not the only one.” I genuinely love you, Zoë, and a lot of these answers were beyond the interview – there were things that I wanted to know.
ZK: Thank you for taking the time to think about these questions. All of it.
JM: Anything for you, sweetie pie.