Zendaya covers ELLE’s September 2023 issue. ELLE spoke with Zendaya about her increased awareness of being in the public eye, keeping her relationship with Tom Holland private, and her growth as an actress choosing roles outside of her comfort zone.
Zendaya also opened up about her style evolution over the years in collaboration with Law Roach (who styled her ELLE September shoot), what his new role is, and how their relationship has never wavered: “I ride super hard for my team, especially for people I love. He’s involved in every fashion contract, everything I do. If I have an opportunity where he can come with me, he’s always going to be there. He’s always been my creative director in a sense, and he continues to fill that role, because it’s more than just clothes on a red carpet. It’s a bigger thing.”
On how she is entering an era of risk in her acting career: “From a character perspective, I want to find things that will push me,” she says. “As I get older, you know, I can’t play a teenager for the rest of my life.”
On how the role as a leading woman in Challengers is a significant departure for her, and a chance for audiences to see her in a whole new light, playing a quietly cutthroat femme fatale in a film with very adult stakes: It’s the type of performance she knows fans are ready to see from her (“More ready than I am,” she jokes). At the same time, it’s not an unbelievable volte-face. Her subtle performance of seduction onscreen makes the evolution feel more authentic than forced. “I felt like it was a good step into a more, I guess you could say, ‘grown-up’ role and into that next phase,” Zendaya says. “It was a little bit scary to take on, which I think is a good feeling. To be like, ‘Ooh, can I do this?’ You could run from that feeling and stay safe and comfortable, or you can go, ‘You know what, f**k it.’”
On how this is the first time Zendaya has talked about Challengers in depth to a stranger, and she’s stuck figuring out Tashi’s motivations: “I still don’t understand the decisions she makes, and we had so many conversations about the psychology of her and why she is that way,” she says. “What was important to me was that she was unapologetic about it. Sometimes characters who are messy and conflicted and wield power over other people are reserved for [actors] who don’t look like me, so when I get an opportunity to play a character like that, I’ma take it!”
On some of the negative aspects of being in the public eye and photographed at all times: She remembers a store run for a pillow that ended with customers taking pictures of her at the register while dealing with a card issue. “I was just like, Why? You see I’m flustered,” she says with a snicker, taking it in stride. Again, while in Italy a few weeks ago, she was photographed walking her dog, Noon. “I had this idea of, like, I can walk around Venice. No, I can’t,” she says, laughing sweetly. “I had to pick up his poo, and I was like, Lord, please, don’t take a picture of me picking up my dog’s s**t. There’s a picture of me holding the bag, but thankfully they spared the grabbing and the putting it in the bag part.”
On keeping her relationship with Tom Holland private: “Parts of my life, I accept, are going to be public,” she says. “I can’t not be a person and live my life and love the person I love. But also, I do have control over what I choose to share. It’s about protecting the peace and letting things be your own but also not being afraid to exist. You can’t hide. That’s not fun, either. I am navigating it more than ever now.”
Zendaya on her relationship with Law Roach: He’s since continued to style her for red carpets like Bulgari’s mid-May jewelry event in Venice, as well as the shoot for this magazine and her Louis Vuitton campaign debut this spring. “I ride super hard for my team, especially for people I love,” Zendaya insists. “He’s involved in every fashion contract, everything I do. If I have an opportunity where he can come with me, he’s always going to be there. He’s always been my creative director in a sense, and he continues to fill that role, because it’s more than just clothes on a red carpet. It’s a bigger thing.”
Zendaya’s stylist Law Roach on figuring out his new role with Zendaya after announcing his retirement: Over the phone, he confirms he’s stepped into an official role as Zendaya’s creative director and tells me, “Our relationship is like family, so I don’t think I’m going anywhere—and even if I wanted to, she wouldn’t let me.” … Roach maintains that Zendaya has firmly supported his growth. “I’m grateful that people like the work and understand the story. And I’m grateful for her giving me the opportunity to shine,” he says. “It’s not often that such a big superstar like that is very generous and understanding when someone wants to basically step out. She’s been one of my biggest supporters.”
ELLE’s September 2023 issue hits newsstands nationwide on August 29th.
[Photo Credit: Steven Klein for ELLE Magazine]
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