She doesn’t shy away from confronting sexism. She doesn’t shy away from facing race issues in Hollywood. In fact, Zoe Saldana doesn’t shy away. Full stop. “Part of growing up for me has been realising that being the only female in a cast is no longer the
ooking at the gorgeous 38-year-old Star Trek lead drinking pink champagne to celebrate wrapping up a shoot with Patrick Demarchelier, you can’t help but wonder how Zoe Saldana, a girl from Queens who got shipped off to the Dominican Republic at nine years old when her father died suddenly and her mother needed to focus on supporting her family, ended up here.
Well, first of all, you get the feeling that things don’t ‘happen’ to Zoe Saldana. She wills them into existence with the same determination that propelled her from her breakout role as a mouthy ballet student in the 2000 movie Center Stage straight through to her impressive current position of starring in three blockbuster movie franchises that have already grossed a cumulative R59 billion worldwide. But enough about her hugely successful career. Zoe wants to talk about her toddlers, her identical twin boys Cy and Bowie, who are almost two.
You know that friend who couldn’t stop talking about her babies as soon as she reproduced? Zoe is the Hollywood version of her. “My husband and I went to supper with friends, and all I did was talk about the boys. I remember asking Marco, ‘Am I talking too much about the boys?’ and he says, ‘A leetle bit’ – in that accent.” (Her Italian husband, a sexy pro soccer player turned artist, took Zoe’s name when they got married in 2013.)
The fact is, Zoe makes having small kids look good, and she’s thrown herself into parenting with all the gusto she brings to everything – acting, ballet, stunt training, martial arts. “When I heard we were having boys, I wanted to make sure to give them the space they need. I’m a little… intense,” she admits.
Her twins were born two months early by emergency C-section after Zoe’s health started failing, a harrowing surprise that heightened the intensity. “The boys came at 32 weeks. When they were three or four months old, one morning I woke up with this flood of emotions. Marco had them too, and we were able to say to each other, ‘Did we come close to it all changing forever?’ We allowed ourselves to have a moment of ‘poor us’. And that was it. Then one of the boys cried, and it was ‘Got to go!’”
For Zoe, “got to go” also applied to work. But the studio behind one of her films initially turned down her request that it cover the extra childcare she required in order to put in 15-hour days on set. Perks that male stars typically get – private-jet service and tricked-out trailers – were one thing; babysitting, apparently, was another. “The tone changed in negotiations. I was starting to feel I was… difficult,” she recalls. While her request was ultimately granted, she’s still bothered by “the fact that there are women working in these studios – and that they’re the ones [enforcing] these man-made rules. When are we going to learn to stick together?”
The quest for female solidarity is a theme in Zoe’s life. “I come from a family of tough women,” she says of living with her sisters Mariel and Cisely. “Not in a bad way, just resilient, strong, determined and opinionated.” She adds, “Part of growing up for me has been realising that being the only female in a cast is no longer the coolest thing. It’s lonely,” Zoe says. “I used to love it because I thought, ‘I got in! I’m a cool girl!’ But while all the guys were flexing and talking about motorbikes, I was wishing that I had women around.”
Her wish came true when she got pregnant. “We were all reaching out to one another,” she says of her acting peers. “I got an email from Jessica Alba – who I only know from conversations in the bathroom at events – saying, ‘Hey, congratulations. This is my to-do list of how I did things. Maybe there’s