Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny and new X-Men actress, is carving out an impressive niche in films. now she’s spreading her wings, there’s no stopping her.
Zoe Kravitz is a Sagittarius to a T, she admits, moments after arriving to meet me at a noisy West Village cafe. “You know, a social butterfly. Flighty and late,” she says a bit hoarse. She apologises, orders a soy Americano and politely requests a fruit and yoghurt plate, despite missing the breakfast menu. I’m not certain if our waiter obliges because Zoe’s a cute, well-mannered 22-year-old, clad in her Village-friendly bohemian best, or because, well, her parents are Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet.
With scattered hand and forearm tattoos peeking out from underneath her sweater, and a distressed tan trench coat courtesy of her friend Alexander Wang, Kravitz seems more like an arty Parsons student than your archetypal rock star child. We’re soon chatting away about the foxy waiters at our mutual favourite Williamsburg brunch spot and squealing about our life goals of being Patti Smith and inhabiting the Chelsea Hotel circa the 70s. It’s not that I’ve forgotten I’m sitting across from Zoe, last name Kravitz; I just don’t care.
And that’s how Kravitz wants it. “I’ve developed a pretty good bullshit detector over the years,” she confesses, admitting that her famous last name has always come before her, especially in her high school days. “I think hopefully, most of the time, the more [people] got to know me the less weird it got,” she says. “A few days before school started, the kids were always like, ‘Oh, my God!’ But once I got there, they thought I was pretty cool. Or that I was kind of weird,” she explains with a throaty chuckle. Fiercely independent, Kravitz has lived on her own since 18, and says she’s always done her own thing.
Was it inevitable that she would go into showbiz, given her radder-than-rad parents?
“It kind of happened. It wasn’t planned out,” she says. “High school ended and it was time to choose a career. I had spent all of my time acting and singing, so I gave it a shot.”
OK, so her family background probably didn’t hurt her career, but it’s Kravitz’s raw talent, hard work and legit training that’s taken her from playing dress-up and singing Grease tunes to reluctantly auditioning and nabbing the role of Angel Salvador in the forthcoming, massively-hyped X-Men: First Class. “My agent called and I was like, ‘Can you go in for X-Men today?’ And I was like, ‘No, please. There’s no point.’ Because I just didn’t think I had a shot. I was like, ‘I’m not an X-Men chick.’ I would never picture myself in it,” she says with candor and a tinge of the insecurity you’d expect from a budding actress. “My band [Elevator Fight] had performed the night before and I was hung over.” Nonetheless, she got the role, her first in a mainstream film, for which, by the way, dons “a lot of tight leather, kind of slutty costumes.
Well, tomorrow she’s off to the South by South West festival for a screening of indie-drama Yelling to the Sky, which finds Kravitz in her first leading role as Sweetness, a 17-year-old student from Queens coping with abusive, tumultuous environs alongside Precious star Gabourey Sidibe. “The stories I’m attracted to are a little more on the real side, the interesting side,” explains Kravitz. Those include roles in a slew of indie flicks over the past few years, ranging from a counseling-obsessed teen in The Greatest (with Carey Mulligan and Susan Sarandon) to a schoolgirl whose friend is institutionalised for severe depression in dark comedy It’s Kind of a Funny Story (with Zack Galifianakis).
Where other starlets live for blog-fame, party pics and red carpet moments, Kravitz likes long walks across the Williamsburg Bridge while jamming out on her iPod to her favourite band TV on the Radio. When I bring up her stint as the face of T by Alexander Wang, she says she is definitely not a model, but a friend-being-a-friend. (“I’m the most awkward person in the world in a photo-shoot. “I’m just like ‘Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!’”) For “shits and giggles,” she plays in Elevator Fight, for which she pens tunes about the apocalypse. “I’m lucky enough that my acting is sustaining my life right now which is great,” she says. But being Zoe Kravitz comes with the perks of her little band booking massive gigs like SXSW and Philadelphia’s Roots Picnic, even before recording a full-length debut (which they’re taking their time completing “for fun”).
Sure, Kravitz is a Kravitz, and as of late, a bonafide indie darling-turned-mainstream-mutant, but her ultimate goal is still simple: “Keep on paying the rent, keep on making films that are interesting.”
Is she planning a high-profile burnout any time soon?
“I have this weird fantasy of being this crazy lounge singer at some really shitty jazz club when I’m like 65.” She smiles and then says, “And I wanna drink gin and have cat hair all over me.”
Photography: Simon Burstall
Fashion: Anthony Unwin
Words: Alex Catarinella
This article first appeared in Wonderland Issue 26, April/May 2011