A mesmerizing actress with a touch of rock’n’roll, as well as a compelling singer and veteran anticonformist, American actress Zoë Kravitz has conquered Hollywood with her feline grace, tattooed figure and larger-than-life personality. Equally at home in blockbusters (The Batman) as in quirky series (Big Little Lies), the daughter of musician Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, two icons of pop culture, has not only inherited their beauty but also their feral spirit of independence. Numéro met up with the face of Yves Saint Laurent’s new fragrance, Black Opium Le Parfum, who at 34 just directed her first feature film, Pussy Island, a feminist thriller for the #MeToo age.
The nonconformist childhood of Zoë Kravitz, between Mick Jagger, Prince and the Spice Girls
As a child, Zoë Isabella Kravitz (her real name) appeared on TV singing a hit by R’n’B band TLC. As a teenager, she jumped on the Spice Girls’ knees, hung out with Mick Jagger and went partying with Prince. Born in Los Angeles, but a long-term Brooklyn resident, the 34-year-old has always done things her way, blazing a trail far from the beaten track. The lead singer in R’n’B synthpop band Lolawolf, as well as a critically acclaimed actress, the daughter of music icon Lenny Kravitz and beatnik actress Lisa Bonet lives life to her own tune, imposing her rock’n’roll personality, half-cool half-grunge look and anti-conformist artistic ambitions on a Hollywood that is sometimes too staid to handle her.
Are You Gonna Go My Way?, sang her father in 1993, and just like dad Kravitz has fought to make sure we do. Eschewing the pretty-girl roles her feline beauty destined her for, she has chosen to play complex, troubled and sometimes troubling parts. In the series Big Little Lies (2017–19) she was a yoga teacher with a secret; in High Fidelity (2020), she insisted on showing – among others by co-writing the script – the uglier side of the main character, rather than a watered-down version of the part first played by John Cusack in Stephen Frears’s 2000 movie; while in Batman (2022), her badass Catwoman would never let herself be tamed by the tenebrous lead (Robert Pattinson).
Queen of blockbusters, from Mad Max to X-Men
Though excellent in blockbusters, which are by nature crowd pleasers (Fantastic Beasts, Mad Max: Fury Road, Divergent, X-Men: First Class, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Batman), the charismatic star also knows how to surprise. For example, as well as being one of the songwriters on Taylor Swift’s last album, Midnights (2022), it was Kravitz who came up with the idea for her character’s motorbike cat carriers in The Batman. What’s more, the multi-talented star has just made her debut as a director, shooting her provocatively titled feminist thriller in the Yucatán jungle. Written before #MeToo, Pussy Island (await- ing a release date) stars Kravitz’s boyfriend, Channing Tatum (a mountain of muscles and emotions), in a movie that pits men against women as we follow Frida (Naomie Ackie), a young LA waitress, who travels to the private island of a tech magnate famed for his wild parties.
Just like the film’s heroine, Kravitz displays a wild and indomitable side in the campaign for Yves Saint Laurent’s new fragrance, Black Opium Le Parfum, leading the dance to light up the senses. Numéro met up with the perfume’s flamboyant face, who also models for Saint Laurent makeup collections.
Numéro: How do you choose your roles?
Zoë Kravitz: I usually look more at what the film or series is trying to say rather than the role I’m offered. If the story is exciting, it can get me on board even if I’m offered a small part, because I want to contribute to stories that I feel are important to tell. I also think it’s essential to try some- thing different from what you’ve al- ready done. So when I read a script and realize it’s unlike anything I’ve done before, that actually it’s kind of frightening because I’m not sure I’m up to it, it’s usually a good sign.
Your roles are often complex – you don’t just play the hero’s passive girlfriend, but powerful, active women. A feminist stance.
In truth, I just want to play parts I feel a connection to. I like playing women I identify with. And I don’t really know how or why I’d play the hero’s girlfriend, someone with no point of view. I wouldn’t know what to do with the part. There’s no humanity in that kind of character.
"When a rôle is a bit frightening, it's usually a good sign." Zoë Kravitz
Do costume and makeup help you get into the role?
They have a big impact on the way I feel. Often, when I’m playing a char- acter, I see that it really comes together when I find out what she’ll be wearing and I try out the clothes, with hair and makeup. At that point I no longer look like me, and it’s very interesting to see what happens... You start to walk and talk differently. That’s what’s so powerful about makeup. You put on lipstick, and all of a sudden you start swinging your hips differently. It proves that we – human beings – are greatly affected by how we look. It’s amazing to see the extent to which we’re influenced by our appearance.
In which film do you think you look your best?
I like my makeup in The Batman, which was designed by makeup artist Pat McGrath. She’s incredible, and I feel very lucky that she came on set to design these looks for me and the other actors. She created something sublime and modern, but also rough and messy that symbolizes the different facets of the personality of Selina Kyle, alias Catwoman, who I was playing.
" Where women are concerned, there’s a lot of pressure to do everything perfectly, all the time." Zoë Kravitz
What’s the most audacious thing you’ve done?
I try to be audacious in almost everything I do. I recently wrote and directed a film, Pussy Island, and it took a bit of courage to leave my comfort zone and start directing. Every time someone, but I’m thinking specifically of women, tries something they’re not sure they can do, they’re taking a risk that requires courage. Where women are concerned, there’s a lot of pressure to do everything perfectly, all the time. So when we go out of our comfort zone, it’s no small thing.
You’re the face of Black Opium Le Parfum, the new Yves Saint Laurent fragrance. How do you see this perfume?
It’s a really great fragrance because it’s complex, mixing soft vanilla notes, which for a lot of people are very feminine, with more woody scents that are deep and rich like a shot of coffee. They’re not masculine exactly, but they help create an ensemble that’s both sumptuous and subtle. It’s a very Yves Saint Laurent perfume because the brand is strongly focused on creating a balance between women’s different facets. It’s a very sexy, mischievous scent. And I must say I adore the ad campaigns, which are both fun and beautiful. They’re all about adventure, nightlife and independence.
Black Opium’s subversive image is an ode to the night. Are you a night owl?
Yes, there’s a party-girl side to me. I like going out. It probably happens less now I’m older, but I’m very sociable and I like staying up late. I’m definitely a night owl, and even when I’m home alone I don’t go to bed early. I think that what’s exciting about living in a city like New York is that you can go out to dinner and all of a sudden it’s three in the morning because you’ve been bouncing from one place to another meeting new people. I love unexpected adventures.
Do you think nighttime is better than daytime?
I don’t know if it’s better, but there’s a different energy at night that’s really special. Even if I’m tired, I know that late in the evening or at night my creativity is very strong. There’s something that happens around midnight/one in the morning – something in me wakes up. I’m one of the few people I know who, when doing a movie or an ad, loves night shoots. Most people hate them, because you start working as the sun sets and finish when it rises.
Do you recognize yourself in the Saint Laurent woman?
Yes, absolutely. She’s audacious and confident. She doesn’t apologize and has no regrets. She has a certain androgyny that’s both elegant and contemporary. That’s something the brand has always sought to celebrate – an independence, a simplicity and a balance be- tween the masculine and the feminine. In the end, it’s all about self confidence. When you have it, there’s no need to overdo anything – you just have to choose the right colours, the right cuts and the right fabrics. There’s a classic, timeless side to Saint Laurent.
What’s your definition of beauty?
I sincerely believe beauty is to be found inside us. Sometimes, I immediately sense that someone isn’t a good person. And if you find yourself confronted with a bad person, I don’t think there’s any basis to be talking about beauty.
Black Opium Le Parfum, Yves Saint Laurent, available. The film Pussy Island by Zoë Kravitz does not have a release date yet.