Zoë Kravitz Is in the "Sweet Spot"
"I feel like I know how to use my voice now. Being too scared to communicate just gets in the way of the work."
For our June cover, InStyle editor-in-chief Laura Brown sat down with the five stars of Big Little Lies to hear what they had to say about their hit series, their lives, and their relationships with each other. Each interview, like the show itself, touches on love, friendship, struggle, and ambition — which these women have in spades.
LAURA BROWN: So, do you consider yourself ambitious, lady?
ZOË KRAVITZ: I do, but I think part of being ambitious is that you never really think you’re ambitious enough. But, yeah, I work hard. Whenever I’m involved in anything, I give 150 percent of myself. The thing that keeps us ambitious is really the feeling that we need to do more.
LB: Growing up, did you ever doubt ambition was good?
ZK: No. I think because as the daughter of a famous couple [musician Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet], I always felt like I had to work so much harder to prove I wasn’t just along for the ride, you know?
LB: Definitely. Do you remember the first door that opened for you because of that?
ZK: I wouldn’t say that I got any kind of role because of my parents, but I knew people were going to think that. So, I felt I had to be this great performer. The truth is, I know that has helped me get in certain doors, like getting an agent, but that only gets you so far. I really don’t think my last name is going to do anything for the filmmakers I want to work with, but the rest of the world might think the only reason I have these jobs is because of where I come from. That’s where a lot of my ambition starts.
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LB: And now you’re old — you’re 30! [laughs] You’ve been ramping up not only as an actor but also as a producer [Kravitz is executive-producing and starring in the Hulu TV series High Fidelity]. Is that something you’ve wanted to do for a while?
ZK: Yeah, producing is interesting and difficult. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be on this side of things. There are months and months of prep that go into every single detail — designing the sets, location scouting, writing, casting. Now I have this wonderful experience of seeing it all before I show up on set with my fucking latte.
LB: Do you ever get intimidated on set?
ZK: Not anymore. And that’s not to say I don’t get nervous, because I get incredibly nervous the day before I do anything. But I feel like I know how to use my voice now. Being too scared to communicate just gets in the way of the work.
LB: You seem so physically confident. Were you always?
ZK: Definitely not. I dealt with eating disorders in high school and my early 20s. I always felt like I needed to look like a supermodel to do my job, which I don’t. The supermodels are doing it quite well. But when you’re starting your career, you think you have to be the hot girl who can play some guy’s girlfriend. And then you work more, and you grow up. With Big Little Lies, we were all so hungry to play real characters. It’s not about what we look like, it’s about what we feel like.
LB: You showed up to the Vanity Fair Oscar party earlier this year in a Tiffany gold mesh bra, and I was like, “Eff, yes!” How did you get to that place?
ZK: It was a process. I would have never done that even five years ago, but my stylist, Andrew [Mukamal], is always challenging me. At first I was like, “There’s no way in hell I’m wearing that.” Then I sent my mom a picture of it as kind of a joke. And she said, “Honestly, you can only wear that for a few more years, so if you’re going to do it, you should do it now.” And that really did affect me. Hearing her say, “You’re 30, and you’re sort of in this sweet spot where you can just be proud of your body and still pull this thing off.” I was like, “OK, maybe this is a moment that won’t last forever.”
LB: Also, it was hot that day, so it was very practical. Can I borrow it?
ZK: Oh, they picked that shit up from me immediately. They were like, “Thank you. This does not belong to you.”
LB: What makes you feel the most confident?
ZK: Knowing I work hard helps my confidence. I think a lot of my fears creatively always came from the insecurity that I didn’t earn what I had. Now, after a solid 10 to 15 years of really working hard, I know I’ve earned it. I also have amazing people in my life who support me — my friends, my family, my fiancé [actor Karl Glusman], and all the women on Big Little Lies. They have my back, and I know if I was doing some weird, crazy shit, someone would set me straight. They help whenever I have a moment of panic and confusion, which happens quite often.
LB: What does success mean to you? Do you want to be a massive star?
ZK: It has never been about fame. It’s been about the quality of work and also about being in the position where I’m able to create things from the ground up. The projects kind of become your babies. I think having the opportunity to birth art is success to me.
LB: You’re engaged now, and there’s a beautiful security in that. What are you ambitious for in your relationship?
ZK: When you are in a steady relationship, you become mirrors of each other, a reflection of your own behavior. It really comes down to just wanting to be a good person and a good partner. A person that someone is going to want to be around 24/7. So, we both have to continually check ourselves to be like, “OK, am I listening? Am I being respectful? Am I being what I want in a partner?”
LB: I always wonder about actors who are with other actors — how do you go through separations?
ZK: We try not to go longer than two weeks, but it doesn’t always work. So we talk on the phone, and we send each other songs that make us think of each other. FaceTime is helpful. For me, it gets hard because I go into Independent Zoë mode. And then I have to open and blossom again into Relationship Zoë, and that sometimes is the hardest part. It’s because I’m an only child, so I go very quickly into that “It’s just me against the world” mentality. Bless the patient man in my life.
LB: What’s the perfect day for you?
ZK: Now that it’s spring, my favorite thing to do is walk around New York City with my headphones on listening to music. I smoke a little bit of weed and go.
LB: Do you want to have kids someday?
ZK: I think so. I don’t think immediately, though, because it requires a lot of time and attention. I think I need to be ready to focus on that, which I’m not at the moment. I know mothers who do it all, and it is possible, but I’m having a hard enough time doing it all — and I don’t even have a dog. [laughs]
LB: Start with a goldfish?
ZK: Yeah, we’ll see if I can keep it alive.
LB: In the fashion space, what else do you want to do? You have a relationship with Saint Laurent, but would you ever want to create your own thing?
ZK: I don’t know. Only because I would put so much pressure on myself for it to be perfect. I have so much respect for fashion and the art of it, so I know I’d have to really dedicate myself to it. To me, fashion is about the details, the quality of the work. That’s what makes the difference between a cheap T-shirt and that vintage shirt that fits and hangs perfectly.
LB: What gets your juices flowing, politically?
ZK: There are people all over the world who are dying, so the most important thing to me right now is gun laws. I fear for my own life; I fear for the lives of my family and friends. And just look at New Zealand. They’ve already passed gun-reform laws. For one shooting. What are we doing? We’re choosing some old document that was written before we had semiautomatic weapons. We have to update everything, you know? And have a president who cares about that.
LB: We’re all going to have to move to New Zealand. What do you think you’ve learned most from the BLL ladies?
ZK: Well, I’ve known Shai for years now, and with all the ups and downs — life stuff, fame, films, love — she’s just constantly herself. So many people change depending on their environment, and Shailene Woodley does not, and I fucking love it. Life is Shailene Woodley’s bitch. And Laura has the best sense of humor. She makes me laugh so hard because she finds humor in really bizarre places. You see it in her acting too: What she does with her characters is always this weird tone of funny. Nicole can access her emotions in a crazy way, which is why she’s so wonderful at her job. She’s sensitive, and she’s open to feeling things no matter where she is or who she’s with, and I think that’s very brave, because I tend to protect myself.
LB: Whenever I see her, it’s like we get right into the heavy emotional stuff in two minutes.
ZK: She goes in deep! She’s just going around feeling the real shit. And Reese Witherspoon would win one of my top-five favorite human awards. She’s so honest. She’s so funny. And she’s fiery as hell. Her ferocity and care for everybody in her life is through the roof. I strive to be a friend like her.
LB: I’m sorry you’re surrounded by so many losers.
ZK: It’s sad, right? I need new friends.
Photographed by: Pamela Hanson. Styling: Julia Von Boehm. Hair: Nikki Nelms for Impaq Beauty. Makeup: Nina Park for Forward Artists. Manicure: Casey Herman for The Wall Group.
For more stories like this, pick up the June issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download May 17.