Exclusive: Zoë Kravitz on the importance of “being unapologetically yourself”

As an actress, singer, model and global make-up ambassador for YSL Beauté, Zoë Kravitz’s achievements are vast for someone who’s still shy of her thirties. The Big Little Lies star, 29, was recently granted another gig as the face and spokesperson for the fashion house’s famed fragrance, Black Opium, lending her a platform to talk about all things beauty and what that world means to her. First in line when she landed in London this September, we met with Kravitz to understand her beauty philosophy and the messages she hopes to share as a role model. Spoiler alert: her approach is very refreshing.


HB: The beauty industry is, belatedly, celebrating diversity at the moment – but what else do you think needs to be done for things to feel more inclusive?

ZK: “I think we’re just beginning the conversation because the idea of beauty is complex; what is it to be beautiful and what does that mean? Do we celebrate just the way you look, or do we celebrate people being who they are? The way people treat each other is so important. So I’d love to incorporate that into the beauty industry. I love that it’s a conversation and I love that it’s something that’s on people’s minds because that’s how it all starts, right? Collective consciousness, conversation, dialogue.”


Rory Van Millingen for YSL


HB: What’s your beauty philosophy?

ZK: “In terms of make-up, I always try and tell people that I think make-up should be used to highlight the things that you love about yourself, not to cover up who you are or what you look like. Let your imperfections be the things that make you special. And I also think that beauty is a quality, it’s not a physical strength to me necessarily. It really stems from who you are inside, the way you treat others, the way you take care of yourself. When I see somebody being their authentic selves and being kind, I think that is what makes people beautiful. I actually don’t think it’s possible to be beautiful if you’re an unkind person.”


ZK: “My mother, both my grandmothers, my godmothers [one is actress Marisa Tomei]. And working with the amazing cast of Big Little Lies, all those women have had a big impact on my life. Watching them work and seeing who they are in life. We’re all so different; different ages, different cultures, so seeing these women who have created such amazing careers for themselves and balance that with motherhood, especially Reese [Witherspoon] who’s behind the camera, in front of the camera, creating jobs for other people, she’s writing books – she’s doing so much! So she’s definitely one of my biggest inspirations.”

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Getty Images Stefanie Keenan


HB: Tell us your typical day-to-day routine

ZK: “First of all, I think it stems from what you’re putting into your body. For me what I’m eating and if I’m drinking enough water, if I’m sleeping – those things directly affect my skin. That is where beauty begins for me. Then washing your face morning and night and trying to use organic-based products. I love the companies Retrouve, ISUN, Simply Divine Botanicals, Joanna Vargas – great serums, face washes and skincare that are all for the most part organic.”


HB: What does it mean to you to be the face of the Black Opium fragrance?

ZK: “It means so much. It felt like a massive accomplishment for myself, and then when I learned that I was one of the only, or few, women of colour who’ve been the face of a couture fragrance it was incredible because it becomes so much bigger than yourself. And I think it’s so important for other women of colour to see a reflection of themselves in a high-end brand and see that they are worthy of luxury and represent luxury.”


HB: Black Opium is already an iconic fragrance, but how are you hoping to communicate its new story?

ZK: “The thing that I love so much about the campaign is the idea of adventure and being spontaneous and ‘following the night’ and I also love that it doesn’t focus on romance and it doesn’t focus on getting the attention of a man, it’s about a woman going out and living for herself, finding adventure for herself and finding power within herself. And the goal isn’t to be accepted or looked at by someone else, it’s about her having an adventure that feeds her.”


HB: You’ve described it as “bold”, what does bold mean to you in a beauty sense?

ZK: “I think it’s more of an attitude than anything else. I think a lot of women are taught to make themselves smaller, to be quiet and be well behaved. So allowing yourself to be wild and loud and scream who you are from the rooftops is bold and beautiful. The thing about YSL is that they’ve always embraced the empowered woman, the woman who’s not afraid to give a little drama – and I think that’s bold beauty.”


HB: How else do you personally relate to this fragrance?

ZK: “I love the fragrance because it’s complex, it’s not just one thing. When I first started working with YSL, I hugged one of the women who worked there and stopped and asked, ‘what is that smell?’ She ended up sending me Black Opium and I was wearing it and loving it before I was offered the campaign. So it’s so great to be a part of the campaign for something that I actually already love and wear. There are so many different notes in it; it’s sweet, it’s musky – it has these coffee flavours. I love something that makes you have a second sniff and think ‘what is that?’”

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HB: We love your short hair in the Black Opium campaign, do you feel very different with short hair?

ZK: “Yes I do feel different, it definitely affects how I feel or what I wear. But they’re both different parts of my personality – and woman are complex, we’re so many things. I think the short hair feels very sassy, mature, boyish, and when I have short hair I feel very exposed. Which is good for the campaign as it feels brave in a way because your face is so out there and that really is the character of this campaign; not caring what anybody thinks and being unapologetically yourself. So it was perfect timing having it short. It was just a spontaneous thing. And then I put my hair long again to match the new season of Big Little Lies.”


HB: And how does long hair make you feel?

ZK: “The braids become a little bit of a security blanket, you can hide behind it. When I cut my hair I also realised how much I was relying on my long hair to feel feminine, so when I cut my hair I had to access a different part of my femininity. Again, so perfect for the campaign because it’s not about being the obvious version of being feminine and that’s something I love so much about YSL as a brand in general; they’ve always pushed the boundaries about what it is to be beautiful, what it is to be feminine with beauty and with fashion.”


HB: As you believe beauty begins with what you’re putting into your body, how would you describe your diet?

ZK: “For me it’s about balance. I was raised vegan and I love plant-based foods but I also do eat meat. I try to be aware about where the meat is coming from – especially in America, we have all kinds of crazy hormones and stuff being put into our food, so I think the more you can avoid that the better. Being conscious of what you put into your body and where it comes from is really important. Processed foods and processed sugar – all that stuff takes a toll on your body. And it’s about listening to your body. If I’m eating too much bread or too much sugar I’ll feel tired, then I have to start eating more greens – being in tune with what your body is asking for is so important.”


HB: Would you say you eat intuitively, then?

ZK: “Yes I think so, because if I only eat greens then all of a sudden I feel like I’m floating and I need something to ground me like meat or bread – so I think it’s about balancing that and listening to my body. Sometimes I’ll go on junk food binges and start eating a bunch of greasy food and it’s fun but all of a sudden I’ll feel my body say ‘alright, stop, you need to chill’ – and it’s important to listen to that voice.”

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HB: What health and beauty advice have you been given from your family?

ZK: “Firstly, taking care of your body – health is so important and beauty stems from being healthy. And also that ‘beauty’ doesn’t last. So it’s so important to nourish the deeper parts of ourselves as well; being kind, being respectful – all these things contribute to being beautiful and my parents [musician Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet] helped communicate these things to me growing up.”


Getty Images David Livingston


HB: Did you ever make any big beauty mistakes?

ZK: “I tweezed my eyebrows very, very thin. I’m so lucky they grew back. My mum yelled at me and told me if I ever touched my eyebrows again she’d kill me! So thank you, mum. That was the biggest beauty no-no because I like my eyebrows!”


HB: What are your top three beauty products?

ZK: “The Couture Brow in Glazed Brown, the Touche Éclat in shade 4.5 and the Click Eau de Parfum [a portable version of Black Opium] which is always in my purse now. It’s a great thing to have with you always, it’s so nice for touch-ups.”


HB: What have you learnt about yourself as you’ve grown older?

ZK: “So much. I’ve learned to be more patient, that it’s really important to take time for myself, and I’ve learned that I’ve got a lot more to learn! I feel like the older I get, time just goes faster and faster, so it’s so important to spend time with the people I love and do things I always wanted to do because who knows how much time we have on this earth – so just trying to be more present and precious. Every moment is a journey for me that I’m constantly trying to get better at.”


HB: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give your teenage self?

ZK: “Probably to enjoy every moment more because when you’re younger you can’t wait to grow up, but looking back those years were so fun and amazing. That saying ‘youth is wasted on the young’ is so true because you don’t want to be a kid, but when you grow older you realise how beautiful that time is.”


From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK