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Zoë Kravitz Recalls Growing Up Feeling 'Uncomfortable' With Her Blackness

"It took me a long time to not only accept it but to love it and want to scream it from the rooftops.”

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Zoë Kravitz has been receiving a lot of praise for her role as Catwoman in the latest Batman installment. While she played a strong, confident, and powerful woman, in real life the actress didn’t always feel that way. She was born into fame with Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz as her parents, both of who are mixed with Black and white heritage. Her grandmother was The Jeffersons actress Roxie Roker and one of the first Black women to be in an interracial couple on primetime TV.


From the outside looking in, you can say that her world has always been Black and white, but it’s more complicated than that. The 33-year-old Big Little Lies star got candid with The Observer about her multi-dimensional experience growing up in Hollywood.

On growing up uncomfortable in her Blackness:

“I felt really insecure about my hair, relaxing it, putting chemicals in it, plucking my eyebrows really thin. I was uncomfortable with my Blackness. It took me a long time to not only accept it but to love it and want to scream it from the rooftops.”

The former LOLAWOLF singer said that her parents never gave her a heads up on the racism she may endure entering Hollywood and didn’t mention whether or not they had that talk in her childhood. What they did do, however, is instill in her that she can do anything she wants no matter the color of her skin.

“They both dealt with being artists who didn’t act or dress or look or sound the way a Black person was supposed to act in terms of what white people specifically were comfortable with,” she said of her parents. Her parents have often been viewed as free spirits in the industry, and as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

On pushing boundaries in acting and facing rejection: 

Zoë wants to push boundaries in the projects that she decides to take on. For example, going after roles that were meant for a white person such as her character in Big Little Lies. Other Black actors like Michael B. Jordan have also shared that they do the same thing. But it took Zoë a minute to land bigger roles. Like many actors, she often faced rejection, which would upset her. But her mom gave her some good ol’ advice.

“Even though it’s sometimes hard to see that in the moment, usually a few years later, you’re like, OK, this is why this didn’t happen.”

On people not being their authentic selves: 

The actress continues to thrive in the face of adversary and in the age of social media and cancel culture, which she points to as the reason why people can’t be their authentic selves. “People are not expressing or doing what they want to do because they’re afraid of getting into trouble,” she said. “We’re not leaving room for growth. It’s all based on shame and fear. It’s completely out of control.”

She even feels that way when it comes to actors landing certain roles and the backlash some face because of it. “The idea of certain actors not being able to play a certain part because you’re not that thing in real life, I think that’s really dangerous,” she said. “Because I don’t know what acting is if we’re not allowed to play someone. It’s about empathy. It’s about stepping outside yourself.”

For more of her interview with The Observer,click here.

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Featured image by Cindy Ord/WireImage via Getty Images

Jamie Foxx and his daughter Corinne Foxx are one of Hollywood’s best father-daughter duos. They’ve teamed up together on several projects including Foxx’s game show Beat Shazam where they both serve as executive producers and often frequent red carpets together. Corinne even followed in her father’s footsteps by taking his professional last name and venturing into acting starring in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times as Thelma.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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