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Zoe Kravitz: 'Beauty can't be defined by race, gender or age'

She's rock 'n' roll royalty through her famous parents, but this year has seen Zoe Kravitz become a star in her own right, with the HBO series 'Big Little Lies' and a make-up contract with YSL Beauty


Zoe Kravitz attends the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Zoe Kravitz attends the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Zoe Kravitz attends the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Ask a roomful of people their opinion of Zoe Kravitz and the resounding answer is that she is "cool". She is also something of a style icon, frequently topping best-dressed lists, and was even the cover star of the October edition of British Vogue. In person, she is "cool" - but pleasingly without the unapproachable millennial vibe you'd expect from a 28-year-old Brooklyn-based actor born in LA. When I speak to her, it's during a packed schedule at the Venice Film Festival, but still she is very polite, listens carefully and is refreshingly mature.

Of course, genetics has something to do with the cool factor. As the only daughter of the multi-Grammy-winning rock star Lenny Kravitz and actor Lisa Bonet (the couple divorced when she was six years old), it's no surprise she is so hip. But she hasn't sat back on her It-girl status - Zoe is hot property as an actor in her own right and is also the global make-up ambassador for YSL Beauty.

"I've wanted to be an actor from a young age," she tells me. "From when I was six or seven I fell in love with films like The Wizard of Oz and Grease, and I would always perform for my parents and grandparents. I wasn't even fully aware of the extent to which my family was involved in the entertainment industry. It was just a natural thing for me."

Zoe's mother, who turned 50 last week, is best known for her role as Denise Huxtable in the American sitcom The Cosby Show, in which she starred on and off from 1984 to 1991. On her 20th birthday in 1987, she eloped to Las Vegas with her rocker boyfriend Kravitz.

Lisa gave birth to Zoe the following year, and the family settled in Los Angeles, until six years later when the couple divorced. During this time, Lenny's career was gaining momentum, and he wrote and produced songs for Madonna, Vanessa Paradis and Steven Tyler. "We were very young, and it was wonderful," Lenny told Oprah Winfrey in 2013, of his relationship with Lisa. "I see now what it was all about: it was really all about bringing this beautiful child to the planet."

When she was younger, Zoe split her time between her parents, and she is now settled in New York with her actor boyfriend Karl Glusman (who starred in Tom Ford's 2016 film Nocturnal Animals).

In 2005, Lisa began a relationship with the actor and model Jason Momoa, with whom she has two children: 10-year-old daughter Lola Iolani Momoa, and eight-year-old son Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa. In the same Oprah interview, Lenny - who hasn't had any other children - said: "Zoe's mom and I now are best friends. When we're all together - her man, her kids, Zoe, me - we're one big, happy family. It's beautiful and it just shows you what can be done."

Zoe also fronts an indie band called Lolawolf, named after her two half-siblings, but acting is her real passion.

"Growing up, wanting to be an actor was a double-edged sword," she tells me. "I had opportunities because of who my family are, and I was able to get an agent very quickly. But that can lead into self-doubt. I then had to work very hard to earn my reputation based on my talent."

Of female role models, she said earlier this year that "both my grandmothers and my mother planted the seeds for me of what it meant to be female. My mother had really great girlfriends. Marisa Tomei is my godmother. I've always been around strong women, funny women. Humour is a big thing in my family".

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It's impossible to avoid the fashion credentials she inherited from her parents, too - both Lenny and Lisa have a relaxed, irreverent style that can be seen in Zoe. Does she mind being called a style icon? "It makes me feel good, but I don't do it for people's approval," she tells me. "I don't think I have a 'look'. When I see someone who is comfortable in their own skin, and being unapologetically themselves, I think it is so beautiful. It's exciting that things are changing in the industry and people are waking up to the idea that beauty can't be defined by race, gender or age." Although she sees the tide changing, there are still barriers. She told Vogue earlier this year that the Trump presidency is "beyond farcical. It's not funny, but you almost have to laugh. I just called my mum and we were talking about how Trump had fired the head of the FBI, and we both started laughing".

This year has been a big one for Zoe, and has seen her acting career take a new route. Previously, she had mainly featured in action films (such as X-Men and Divergent), but she is now becoming known for her roles in grittier dramas and comedies. Not least, of course, her turn as hippy-dippy yoga teacher Bonnie Carlson in the hit HBO show Big Little Lies, which turned her into a household name.

Based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, the dark murder mystery centred on a group of school-gate mothers in the upmarket Californian coastal town of Monterey Bay. Someone is killed at a school fundraiser, and a complex drama unfolds in a modern whodunit featuring women who wear Lululemon leggings with perfectly blow-dried hair. Zoe starred alongside the likes of Nicole Kidman (to whom her father was briefly engaged in 2003) and Reese Witherspoon, and she describes filming the seven-part TV drama as a "dream come true". The series won eight Emmy awards in September, including one for Outstanding Limited Series.

"I think we were all thrilled to be surrounded by so many wonderful women telling such an intriguing story. It's very rare to work with and be around such supportive women. Not that men aren't supportive, but it's just that women are more vocal about the way they feel. It was all, 'That was beautiful work', and, 'That was a wonderful scene'. It really made me feel warm and fuzzy."

So is Zoe anything like her character Bonnie? "I'm less like her than people think. She's a lot more patient than I am, and a lot more passive. I love Bonnie. She's the type just to sit back and let things happen organically. I'm more of a confrontational character." She has said that while growing up she saw herself as "the tiny gatekeeper trying to protect my parents, especially my dad, who's so nice to everyone. He lets people in. But I have a fiery side".

This year, Zoe has also appeared alongside Scarlett Johansson in the comedy Rough Night (which she describes as "so much fun you forget you're even being paid"), and is currently filming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2, which will be released next year. "I play Helena Bonham Carter's great-great aunt. She's an icon of mine so it's a real pinch-me feeling to even be associated with her. I think her performance in Fight Club is one of the best by a woman in a film."

Zoe comes across as thoroughly normal and measured, especially considering her upbringing.

I ask her what her perfect Saturday night is, and it sounds very ordinary. "I like having a few friends over and drinking wine, and watching a movie. I'd much rather eat at home than go to a bar - I make really good pasta." Not what you'd expect from Zoe Kravitz at all, but if being normal in Hollywood is now considered a cool rarity, she's right on the money.

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