Zoë Kravitz and “Godmama” Marisa Tomei on Their Tattoos, Female Friendship, and the Big Little Lies Group Text
Photographed by Anthony Maule
Zoë Kravitz is cultural royalty. Yet over the past decade, she’s charted her own course, ably steering clear of any dynastic drama. That speaks not only to her talent but to her ability to navigate her art and her career, just as she saw her parents, Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz, do. These days Kravitz has been busy promoting her new indie mystery (Gemini), gearing up for her band Lolawolf’s second album (due out later this year), filming the second season of the HBO juggernaut Big Little Lies, and serving as the global makeup ambassador of YSL Beauté. It’s quite a way for the 29-year-old to be wrapping up what’s been a defining decade in her life. So for her InStyle cover story, we thought it would be interesting to have her speak with someone who’s seen that evolution up close. Enter her godmother, actress Marisa Tomei. The pair sat down in Kravitz’s L.A. home in early March to talk about embracing age, the restorative power of saunas, and the importance of finding your tribe.
Marisa Tomei: Hi, darling.
Zöe Kravitz: Hi, Godmama.
MT: Aww. I’ve known you since you were a tiny babe.
ZK: It’s funny because Jillian—my manager and a dear friend of us both—just now said, “This is so great because you guys have known each other for 30 years,” and I was like, “Ahhh!” [Kravitz turns 30 later this year.] I never really thought about age until recently.
MT: I remember when I was 30 I was working a lot. I mean, intensely.
ZK: Yeah, I’m about to be the most productive I’ve ever been. I’ve worked a lot the past couple of years, but now I’m feeling more confident as an artist and have more opportunities. I’m getting the chance to make art from the ground up. In your early 20s you’re figuring it all out—you’re like a dog with big paws. And you’re waiting for people to open the gates for you. Now they’re open. So I feel really excited for the next 10 years of my life.
MT: To see you cultivate your own style and watch you move through the world as you grow up—you just keep grabbing more of who you are, stepping into yourself. I noticed it so much when you came to see me in the play [How to Transcend a Happy Marriage] last year. I was like, “Oh my god, she’s in a new phase—and a whole new fashion and beauty phase too.” Just when I thought you couldn’t get more gorgeous.
ZK: I’m feeling more in my body. Beauty is so much what’s on the inside, as Hallmark-y as that may sound.
MT: You grew up knowing that—or being taught that. And I know because I’m best friends with your mom, and that’s something she also taught me. What were your new revelations as you came into your body?
ZK: Well, even though I was taught that, I didn’t always feel beautiful on the inside or on the outside. I had to go through phases where I had to try to find it.
MT: How did you do that?
ZK: Um, I’m still doing it [laughs].
MT: I guess I ask because I’m still doing it too!
ZK: We’re all still doing it. I’m just trying to listen to my body, spirit, and heart and notice when I don’t feel good. And when that happens, I shift my energy or my perspective.
MT: Right—listening to the inner voices and paying attention to the outside things too.
ZK: It’s all so connected. What am I reading, what am I listening to, who am I hanging out with, what am I eating, what am I saying to myself in my head? It shouldn’t be a struggle but a constant ebb and flow. You check in, and you check out.
MT: Yes, you need the checkouts too. And by that I mean more playtime or more of not being so hard on yourself. You travel so much. Are there things you do to feel like you’re in your body again when you’re not home?
ZK: Steam rooms are, like, my favorite places ever. For me, spas aren’t for getting my nails done. I want to sweat it out. I have a steam room in my house because it just makes me feel so good. When I’m in L.A., I go to a Korean spa and spend hours there sweating it out, moving the energy.
MT: Letting it go.
ZK: Exactly. So if I’m traveling or feeling shitty physically, that’s usually the first thing I do.
MT: Yeah, me too. I’m big into infrared saunas and then getting out in nature. Somewhat related to those kinds of rituals, InStyle points out that we both have tattoos of eyes. How do you see tattoos as an expression of beauty?
ZK: I think the fact that they’re permanent is such a wonderfully intense thing. It’s a deep way to adorn yourself, and I think they’re beautiful aesthetically. Even if you get a bad tattoo, it’s like … that’s where you were at that time.
MT: That happened to me, and I was with your mother [laughs]! I wouldn’t say that was my finest hour.
ZK: I think decoration is lovely, and you obviously are going to get tattoos in places you feel comfortable with or places you want to highlight, even if it’s just for yourself or your partner. There’s something that feels so wonderfully ancient about it as well, which I like.
VIDEO: Zoe Kravitz: Is It Cool?
MT: When you say “ancient,” it makes me think of argan oil. Are there things like oils you love to put on?
ZK: Coconut oil is beautiful, the way it smells and feels. I love the idea of putting something on your body that you can eat and that smells like cupcakes … because girls are supposed to smell like cupcakes [laughs]. It’s my favorite thing in the world, coconut oil.
MT: So in terms of work, you have the film Gemini out now, and your band Lolawolf is about to release a new album. Do people ask you if you prefer music to acting? People always ask me that about theater and film, and I feel more like they feed each other than compete.
ZK: It’s so funny because in the olden days it was, like, singing and dancing and theater and film—it really was all part of the same thing, and you had to be able to do everything. Now they’re like, “Wait, you’re doing both of these things. Which one do you like more?” As if you have to make a decision. They feed each other—that’s such a beautiful way to say it. I learn so much about who I am as an artist every time I write a song, and I can apply that same idea when I get a script.
MT: Do you have a support system that has sustained you and helped you move through things as you grow?
ZK: I do. I mean, I’ve grown up with an amazing support system. You’re part of it! My mother has always surrounded herself with fantastic women who have paid such wonderful attention to me from an early age. I think being received like that by other women has allowed me to be open to relationships like that of my own. And also having my own relationships now with you all.
MT: It’s so fun for me too, like, Zoë’s here, and she’s grown up! I have a new friend.
ZK: Yes, we’re learning who we both are as two people now. I’ve met so many wonderful women, specifically my castmates on Big Little Lies. They’ve really become a support system for me, and I hope I’ve done the same for them. Before we knew we were coming back for a second season, we kept in touch—group texts and emails and stuff like that. And I’ve spoken to [co-star] Reese [Witherspoon], who’s become one of my dearest friends, about so many aspects of my life. She’s such a smart businesswoman, so I’ve sent her ideas and scripts, and she reads them and gives me feedback. It’s so amazing to have women in your life like that who are a part of the industry and who you’ve grown up watching and admiring … and now they’re giving you advice and encouraging you to continue and develop your projects, your dreams, and yourself.
MT: The unity between women just changes everything. It’s always helped me find my voice and elevate the artistic experience.
ZK: Elevate the world, which is why I think people have been trying to stop us [laughs].
MT: It’s just too powerful. It really is true.
ZK: I feel it. I believe it. Because when we come together, you feel the energy immediately. We’ve all grown up in a culture where we were taught to fight with one another for jobs and attention—specifically men’s attention. The fact that we’re supposed to compete in terms of who’s the most beautiful—that’s the issue for this beauty issue! We’re not taught to raise one another up. But everyone looks more beautiful once we get rid of the idea that we need to oppose one another. Everyone gets to sparkle. I want to be an example of a person in the world just being herself.
MT: Authenticity is an antidote to toxicity.
ZK: Especially with a president who’s constantly spewing bullshit. [Authenticity] is like the sauna effect—sweat that shit out.
Photographer: Anthony Maule. Fashion editor: Andrew Mukamal. Hair: Nikki Nelms for Impaq Beauty. Makeup: Nina Park for The Wall Group. Manicure: Casey Herman for The Wall Group.
For more stories like this, pick up the May issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download April 13.