Zoe Saldana is a Hollywood action icon, starring in three of the five highest grossing films of all time, Avatar, Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy.
The highly-anticipated release of Avatar: The Way of Water sees Saldana return to her role of Pandoran princess Neytiri which she played 17 years earlier, a role reserved for only the physically strongest of action stars.
The 44-year-old mother of 3 underwent intensive physical and psychological preparation to build up her strength for the role, training in archery, horseback riding, martial arts, running and jumping. And crucially, following director James Cameron's decision to focus on sub-aquatic filming, she trained to hold her breath underwater for five minutes.
“I had to regain my stamina. I know that my body can give back if I pace it, so I paced myself, and I regained all that knowledge,” Saldana explained in her cover interview, adding that she also quit smoking when she landed the part. “It felt so good to breathe, to fully take a breath – to challenge myself and find out that my body was capable of doing so much more."
She continued: “When I put in the work and push myself, when I’m consistently disciplined – that makes me feel strong.”
On closer inspection however, strength and wellness run through everything Zoe does, from raising her sons to process their emotions healthily and her refreshing approach to success, to finding calm amid the chaos in her day to day.
Here are 5 powerful takeaways from our cover interview with Zoe Saldana
1. Success is about discovery
“[Success] was always a gradual ascension – step by step. I never felt like I had exploded. Which was good. I wasn’t one of those artists that was like, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta make it.’ I always wondered, what is ‘it’? What is that ‘it’? You’ve got to define what that ‘it’ is, and for me, my ‘it’ was to be on a journey of discovery, to live my life as an artist.”
2. Being an outsider can be your superpower
“I learned that I should only surround myself with people who think like I do. People like Steven Spielberg [who directed her in The Terminal], James Cameron [Avatar], JJ Abrams [Star Trek] and James Gunn [Guardians] are individuals who’ve probably had their share of feeling like outcasts. Science fiction provided a blank canvas where they could reinvent themselves and imagine the unimaginable. Well, guess what: I was the same way. And they saw me the same way I saw them.”
3. Pass down confidence, not fear
“You know, being an island person, I come from generations of indigenous people that grew up around water, and it’s an uneasy relationship. We’ve been told, through folklore and nursery rhymes, that the ocean can betray you if you’re not cautious. There’s an inherited fear. I’m really happy that I didn't pass down that fear. I passed down confidence. It’s good to know that we can do it, we can be safe. Beyond anything I could have imagined.”
4. Being seen by the right people is more important than being seen by everyone
“I went out for great projects. Sometimes I would go as far as meeting the director. And then I would get feedback that they’d decided to go ‘traditional’ with the casting. I’m pretty sure that the internal conversations there were that they didn’t want to go Black, they didn’t want to go ethnic. I didn’t sweat it…. I realised early on in my career that I don’t have to be seen by everybody. I just want to be seen by those who truly see who I am.”
5. Raising boys who can speak freely about their feelings is my goal
“I want my sons to be tapped into their emotions and be able to speak about their feelings freely. We always tell them to have feelings and that whatever they feel is ok – it’s what you do with them that matters. Raising boys feels like a huge responsibility. But I do feel like there’s a lot of raising that our boys are doing to Marco and I. We’re guiding them as best we can.”
Read Zoe Saldana's interview in full at @MarieClaireUK.
Check out our Wellness Issue for more information on 2023 wellness trends and how to stay positive and find joy this year, from the benefits of mindful movement and strength training to turning failures into motivators - a mantra Zoe Saldana lives by.
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Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.
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