Zendaya Is Just Trying to Keep Her Cool
Let’s get one thing straight: Zendaya never likes it when people watch her cry. The irony is that Rue, the drug-seeking teen she plays on HBO’s drama Euphoria, is all about the tears. Between bites of yellow watermelon, she explains that she has to remember not to cover her face while filming. “I always hide my face when I cry,” she says, tossing back her curly brunette locks. “I would cover up my whole performance with my hands if I let myself.” Euphoria—which delves into a generation of overdrugged, hypersexed high schoolers—centers on Zendaya’s character grappling with grief, addiction, anxiety, and depression. “Rue has such a darkness to her, but also an innocence. I have to be super vulnerable and sad in front of people. It’s weird, but cathartic in a lot of ways.”
While sipping a virgin mojito at L.A.’s trendy vegan restaurant Crossroads Kitchen, a favorite of the 23-year-old actress, she orders two more dishes to go along with the watermelon salad. “Did you know there was such a thing as yellow watermelon?” she asks in pleasurable shock. “I learn something new every day.”
Zendaya strips off an oversize hooded sweatshirt that reads “I Am a Voter,” which she found in her mailbox one day. Her playful, sporty style complements her easygoing personality. She fiddles with the $28 hoop earrings she says look dope. Even though she’s dressed down and without makeup for our dinner, her pinstripe trousers are the same ones she wore for the Spider-Man: Homecoming promotional tour in 2017.
Earlier today, Zendaya brainstormed ideas with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson for the second season of the show. “I harass him daily,” she says, half-joking, eagerly awaiting a potential shoot date in January. She tells me she doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, but she would love for her character and model-turned-actress Hunter Schafer’s character Jules to be healthy and find each other again. “Euphoria was eight months of my life, and now that it’s done I’m like, ‘Fuck,’” she says, reflecting back. “You put your shit out there, and it’s a really terrifying thing to do. It’s out for the world to see—it’s so fucking weird.”
Right now, Zendaya feels as if she needs to decompress and take some time for herself. She’s been continuously promoting her role as Michelle Jones, Peter Parker’s love interest in Spider-Man: Far From Home (with Tom Holland), and she debuted her Tommy x Zendaya spring 2019 collection in Paris this past March (the fall 2019 collection premiered at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in September). She’s also the face of Lancôme’s newest fragrance campaign, Idôle; in a first for her, Zendaya was involved in the development of the scent from early on. Lately, she’s been taking pottery classes and finding time to garden in her backyard. She even took a recent road trip with her mother back to her hometown of Oakland. “Even though Euphoria coming out was amazing and exciting, it was also extremely stressful. It gave me a lot of anxiety every week,” she tells me.“That’s something I deal with; I have anxiety. I already know after this interview is over, I’m going to spiral about it for weeks.”
Growing up, the former Disney star learned her love for acting from her parents, both former teachers, who encouraged her to pursue her passion even though she was very shy. “I wouldn’t try anything,” Zendaya admits. “I always had this fear of failing and not doing so well.” At 14, she became a household name as a star of the sitcom Shake It Up on the Disney Channel. The family moved from her Bay Area childhood home, located in a neighborhood she describes as “not the nicest,” to Hollywood, and she felt bad about the fact that her mother gave up her career to help her become a star.
When she was 20, Zendaya bought a $1.4 million Mediterranean-style mansion and took control of her career. “I had grown up—I moved out, and it was time for me to be the sole voice in my career and make my own choices,” she says. “I just had too many people I was trying to please, too many opinions, and I was constantly talked out of following my gut and my instinct. I don’t have a road map for this shit—I grew up really, really fast. I learned to trust myself a lot more.”
But that trust also made her cautious. “I never want to mess up. I’m trying to be the best version of myself without overapplying pressure. Then I start spiraling,” she says, her cheeks flushing pink. Zendaya spent hours and hours with Levinson to help develop the character she was playing. “Rue is just a combination of my shit and Sam’s shit, and together we created her. I don’t feel too dissimilar from Rue. It didn’t feel fake to me; it felt like she was me in another version of my life.”
She bows her head, her shoulders moving up and down, until she looks up at me. “I think Euphoria taught me a lot about myself. It made me more confident in my own abilities, because I doubted myself a lot.” Zendaya says that before the show, she didn’t have any work that pushed her or allowed her to be creative. “I was looking for something to prove I can do it,” she says. “Euphoria served as that, in the healthiest way. I never want to plateau as an actress—I always want to be able to explore and push myself. [Being an actress] brings me to places and makes me do things I’d probably never do because I’m such an introverted person.”
Zendaya takes a deep breath and exhales; this interview has the feeling of an intense therapy session. She points out that she keeps repeating the words “I don’t know” and apologizes. “I know, I’m super hard on myself,” she acknowledges. But then, without so much as a blip of hesitation, she tells me that she’s glad people admire her work. “People actually saying I did a good job at my craft…it’s like, ‘Damn, I did work hard. I’m glad you see that.’” She pauses a moment, squirming slightly. “I should finally own that; it’s liberating. I feel lucky.” As with most therapy sessions, she looks down at her phone and realizes time has run out. She hugs me and tells me she’s sorry if she seemed uncomfortable. Like everything else, it’s not so scary once it’s over.
This article appears in the November 2019 issue of ELLE on newsstands October 22.
Category: Photo Sessions
Zendaya is featured in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter. I’ve added scans and the photo session to the gallery. She looks lovely.
The 23-year-old star-producer’s profile (and bankability) continues to grow with the announcement of a Lancôme contract in February, a second fashion collection with Tommy Hilfiger and well-reviewed turns in Spider Man: Far From Home and HBO’s Euphoria. With her confident delivery of stellar red carpet looks and a following that numbers 61.8 million on Instagram, Zendaya “has netted Lancôme over 3 billion digital impressions, at an earned media value of over $86 billion,” says Stacy Jones, CEO of marketing agency Hollywood Branded. Her feed has even featured the occasional updo, which the actress used “to be against,” says Stephen. “I always heard her say, ‘My edges look so thin.’ I said, ‘You haven’t had my ponytail.'”
TOP RED CARPET LOOK Channeling Cinderella — or Zenderella, as Daley called it — for a camp-themed Met Gala look exemplified the actress’ “transition from childhood life to her adulthood.” Zendaya’s stylist Law Roach masterminded the princess-blue Tommy Hilfiger gown, which lit up as Zendaya arrived on the red carpet. Says Daley, “Law wanted to embody the whole look from the movie, from the dress to the hair to the makeup,” which included blue shades from Lancôme’s Teal Fury shadow palette. For her Instagram fans, Zendaya, a former child star who became famous for her roles on Disney Channel’s Shake It Up and K.C. Undercover, acknowledged the symbolism: “A fairy-tale ending to my Disney days.”
The Euphoria star-producer’s best advice for red carpet prepping? “Give yourself extra time. However much time you think you need, add an hour,” she says. “I’d much rather be relaxed and chill.” Adds Stephen: “It’s like getting a bride ready for her wedding. It’s an opportunity for everyone — hairstylist, makeup artist, stylist, client — to share their best.”
Zendaya will be featured in issue 17 of Garbage magazine. Check out some photos for the issue and read a blurb about her article below. Enjoy!
Zendaya and Simone Leigh Are Going Beyond Beauty
In conversation with Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, Artists Simone Leigh and Zendaya come together to create a new vision of black womanhood.
The artist Simone Leigh’s work is build upon black female subjectivity. Throughout her practice, these ideas have manifested themselves in a wide variety of mediums and materials: There are her well-known sculptures and ceramics, as well as her social participatory work such as 2016’s The Waiting Room, which mimics the historic Free People’s Medical Clinic of the Black Panther Party, and provided public and private health care sessions on the fifth floor of the New Museum. Now, GARAGE has paired Leigh with the actress and performer Zendaya to bring her work to life in a different way. Taking inspiration from Brick House, Leigh’s 16-foot-tall sculpture currently on display at New York City’s High Line, as well as her ongoing Cupboard series, Zendaya both wears Leigh’s work and becomes her women. The 23-year-old actress, who’s interested in expanding the canon of characters that young black women are allowed to play in Hollywood, fits perfectly within the larger narrative of Leigh’s work. Together, they take up space and demand to be seen and heard. This portfolio of images, photographed by Ryan McGinley, is the result of their collaboration, a new vision of black womanhood within the pages of a fashion magazine. We also brought Leigh and Zendaya together with Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, to have a frank conversation about creativity and the importance of uplifting the stories of people of color.
Thelma Golden: I’m thrilled to be talking to both of you. Where I want to start is to ask both of you to talk about your expectations, hopes, and desires for this collaboration.
Simone Leigh: I kept on thinking about [Isamu] Noguchi and Martha Graham and the way he created sculpture for her, which has been interesting to me for a while. I’ve been making different kinds of apparatus with my long-term collaborator Aimee Meredith Cox, and I’ve been thinking about this kind of collaboration with another artist where the sculpture will augment her body or can be happening adjacent to her body, but it was important for me in this shoot for the sculpture not to become backdrop or decoration. Also, I was very inspired by the role I feel like Zendaya has in our world right now, which is so necessary.
Zendaya: When the opportunity presented itself, I was obviously extremely excited. Even though we do art in different forms, there’s so much inspiration that could be gathered just by meeting someone and seeing their art, and seeing their work, and being able to be a small part of it. I don’t think I had any expectations, I just felt like it was going to be inspiring and refreshing. I don’t think I know very many people who do what she does, so meeting Simone and seeing her work and feeling like I was in some way becoming a part of her creation was magical and special. I felt very moved by it, and excited to be a part of something that was a different art form from my own, learn a little bit, step back, and just kind of be a part of what she sees for her pieces. I’d never really done anything like that before.
I’ve added over 600 photos to the gallery of most of Zendaya’s endorsements and campaigns that Zendaya has done. Check them out in our growing gallery!