“Oh. My. God. OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!”
Zoë Kravitz is in the middle of the sidewalk, freaking out. Her lithe 5'2" frame erupts in kinetic energy, bouncing up and down on the concrete like it’s a springboard as she stares at her phone in disbelief and ecstatic rapture.
On this subfreezing afternoon on the corner of Berry Street and North 9th in Williamsburg, she’s the only one making any kind of noise, or movement, only the stray pieces of litter tumbling across the street coming close to matching her energy. She might be a movie star, a rock star, and (famously) the child of two celebrity parents so distinctly talented and beautiful that they border on the ethereal, but right now, on this sidewalk, she’s having the same utterly human freak-out so many New Yorkers before her have experienced:
She got the apartment.
“Holy shit!” she screams. “You don’t understand. I just got my dream home. This is totally out of my budget, but when you find something in New York you like, you have to do it.”
Dressed in a black wool coat, green trousers, and round silver sunglasses, with braids down to her waist, the 26-year-old could pass for several kinds of twentysomething Williamsburg denizens, none of whom scream “celebrity.” At eternally hip neighborhood restaurant Cafe Mogador earlier that day, she went unnoticed at a table in the back. Heads didn’t turn. Nobody snapped photos. No one stared, no one whispered about her. “My best friend works here, so I’m here a lot,” Kravitz says. “Sometimes I come in here and pick up her paycheck for her.” If you ask Kravitz, she’d probably say that’s why some of the waitresses greeted her like an old friend, or why one knew exactly what kind of tea she was about to order. She’s a regular.
Over the course of the day, she’ll repeatedly insist that everything in her life is “very normal.” You know how it goes, straight out of the Celebrity Profile Cliché Handbook, wherein the celebrity makes a point of conveying just how “regular” their life is. They order french fries and burgers and are overwhelmingly nice to waiters and manage to keep publicists at bay for an hour or two while reporters get to lap up all the ways they “stay normal.” And right now, Kravitz is doing a pretty decent job of selling me on that “normal” life and how much pride she says she takes in it. She doesn’t have an entourage or a bodyguard; she takes the subway. She goes to the bodega; she washes dishes. The only “bratty” thing about her, she’ll admit, is that she doesn’t do her own laundry (she’s got a housekeeper).
All of this stems from a desire to fit in. “When I was younger,” she admits, “I really wanted to prove to people I was a normal human being, that I was cool, chill.” Some kids wanted to be her friend because of the fame; others ostracized her for it. “When kids were mean, the first thing they’d say is, ‘She thinks she’s so fucking cool because her dad is famous,’” she says. “I just wanted to fit in.” And right now, in this café in Williamsburg, she’s fitting in just fine.
But just how much she’ll continue to fit in is clearly about to change. Like her father, she’s making music people are falling for (as the lead singer of electropop band Lolawolf). And while Lenny Kravitz played Cinna in The Hunger Games, Zoë Kravitz chews the scenery as the resilient Christina in Insurgent, part of the equally teen-friendly Divergent Series.
Later that weekend in New York, she’s photographed hanging with Drake and Travi$ Scott. A week later in Los Angeles, she’s gliding around Oscars after-parties with Chris Pine. Back in New York during the cover shoot, all of the people in the room—including Kravitz’s own crew of makeup, hair, stylists, et. al.—mob around her to watch as she poses for photos, to the point where a production manager tells the crush of people to back away. The day after, she’s pictured sitting front row at the Alexander Wang Fashion Week show, right next to Nicki, Kanye, and Kim, people so crazily, insanely famous that using their last names is an exercise in redundancy.
These aren’t very “normal” environs. They’re also the kind she’s appearing in more often than ever. And they demonstrate that Zoë Kravitz is on the precipice of that kind of fame, the one-name fame, the kind that renders all other Zoës (or Zooeys) as those who come after her.
The question then, isn’t how famous she wants to become, but how normal she’s going to try to remain. And whether or not it’ll work.
Kravitz’s parents tried to give her a regular childhood. It couldn’t have been easy. To catch up the ’90s babies who weren’t born yet, Kravitz’s America’s Sweetheart-level sitcom star mother, Lisa Bonet, eloped with her rock star boyfriend when she was just 20 (imagine that one of the Modern Family girls eloped with Justin Bieber in Vegas, and you might get the idea). At 11, six years after Bonet and Lenny Kravitz divorced, Zoë Kravitz moved from Topanga Canyon—L.A.’s bohemian Brigadoon—to Miami, to live with her dad. Previously, her mother had enrolled her in school as Zoë Moon, the surname Bonet adopted in the ’90s.
“She wanted to give me an opportunity to be a normal kid,” Kravitz explains. She wasn’t raised by nannies; she has a close relationship with her parents (whom she calls her “buddies”). She says she and her mom are like sisters and that they’re all—Lisa, Lenny, and Zoë—very similar. “I don’t think anyone knows how funny we are,” she says. “It’s like this whole thing where people think we’re so cool and hippie and wear velvet”—which, to her credit, is a hilariously astute observation of what people might think Growing Up Kravitz is like—“but we’re the fucking nerdiest people.”
Nerdy might be tough to believe, but they clearly have a sense of humor about themselves. The day after Super Bowl XLIX, Kravitz posted a meme on Instagram that showed an image of Katy Perry grinding on her dad during their halftime performance. Beside it was a shot of her from the Divergent films looking bewildered, with the sole caption: “Dad?” Instead of a daughter being embarrassed her 50-year-old father was rubbing up against Perry in front of millions, or a celebrity father being embarrassed because his daughter was calling him out for it, Kravitz says both she and her dad deemed it “fucking hilarious.”
“He texted me: ‘That was funny.’” But she’s quick to say that Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet are “definitely my parents” and will “tell me what’s up when they need to.”
Still, there was always a wafer-thin line between normality and the life of a celebrity daughter. “[My dad] would come pick me up from school sometimes when he was in town in a sports car and a netted shirt, and I’d be like, ‘Ugh.’” She rolls her eyes, reenacting past teenage angst. “That was when ‘Fly Away’ came out.”
On Kravitz’s 11th birthday, her mom—a “very ceremonial person”—finally agreed to let her pierce her ears, and threw her a “piercing party.” Lenny Kravitz flew in Angel, the bald, tattooed woman who’d done his many piercings, for the occasion.
“It sounds crazy”—fact—“but to us it was like, ‘You call Angel when you want something pierced.’ ” says Kravitz. “It sounds crazy,” she repeats, “but it wasn’t that.” For the record, she chickened out at the piercing party and got her ears pierced later at a local Claire’s instead.
Once, when she was 15, Kravitz woke up to Ashton Kutcher cooking omelettes in her kitchen. “I [told my friend], ‘We don’t even know Ashton Kutcher. Why would he be here?’ ” Kravitz once explained on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “I went downstairs and had pimple cream on my face and was wearing a T-shirt. There he was, making an omelette. We sat there before school, and ate omelettes, not understanding why he was there.”
But for every wonderful, weird, surreal moment like that, she remembers the perils of fame just as clearly.
“I had a really hard time when I was 16, 17, 18. I started with the eating disorder in high school….” She trails off at this, and puts her hand to the side of her face, rubbing her right ear, and then dials back to the beginning of that thought: “Just [a hard time] loving myself.”
In high school, she became anorexic and bulimic—“awful diseases” she’d battle to various degrees until the last two or so years. And here, she’s willing to acknowledge to a certain degree her pedigree playing a darker kind of role: “I think it was part of being a woman, and being surrounded by [fame],” she explains, before backtracking: “I don’t think it was about the fame, but I think it was definitely about being around that world, seeing that world. I felt pressured.”
In the summer of 2013, Kravitz signed on to play anorexic twentysomething Marie in the dramedy film The Road Within. As she tells it, when she got the role, she wasn’t sure if she was disciplined enough to play the part without letting her demons get the best of her. “My parents got really scared for me to go back down that road,” she says, recalling when her mother burst into tears after she came back from set one time.
Kravitz couldn’t see how much weight she’d lost. She wasn’t satisfied with her frail 90-pound frame either. “It was fucked up, man,” she sighs. “You could see my rib cage. I was just trying to lose more weight for the film but I couldn’t see: You’re there. Stop. It was scary.” She got sick after filming wrapped. She didn’t get her period regularly because she was too malnourished. Her immune system shut down, her thyroid was thrown off. Recovering from the brutal shoot, she wasn’t receptive to praises from friends who were happy she was gaining weight, either. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to gain weight,’ as opposed to being like, ‘Good, I’m a normal human being.’” Recording with her friends (now Lolawolf bandmates) Jimmy Giannopoulos and James Levy helped her take her mind off what Kravitz only vaguely describes as “not a social time.” The upshot was that it eventually gave birth to the band. “[They] kept me company, and kept me sane,” she said.
It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve 2013 that she decided to take a new tack. She doesn’t remember exactly what happened that day, but she remembers the feeling, and relates to it as though it’d been an otherworldly experience. “I just felt it was different,” she says. “I don’t know...if a fucking spirit came over me and said: ‘You have to stop.’” Whatever it was, she did.
When trying to explain her insecurities, Kravitz cites a combination of systematic ideas about beauty and—yes—her upbringing. She says women are taught it’s not OK to think they’re beautiful: “It’s either: you’re conceited, or insecure, as opposed to just loving yourself.” She was also surrounded by “a lot of beautiful people,” and of course, her mother.
“My mother’s a...,” she says, hesitating, “...beautiful woman, and I think, in some way, I felt intimidated by that sometimes.” Also: “My dad dated a lot of supermodels,” she laughs.
When Kravitz looks to her left, or raises her chin just enough, there it is: The spitting image of Lisa Bonet, her mother, one of the most famously beautiful celebrities of the last three decades. When I tell her it’s hard to imagine she’d be intimidated by her mom (given how much they look alike), she demures: “Everyone sees themselves in some weird, obscure way.” She says her mom also struggles with her own insecurities. “People meet her and don’t know what to do with themselves, but”—and here, she takes care to emphasize with conviction—“she doesn’t know how fucking cool she is. Or what she means to the rest of the world.”
Kravitz says she’s glad she accepted the role in The Road Within, though it’s hard not to detect a little pause in her voice. “It made me not only confront my demons, but also realize and accept an insecurity that’s still there, and [that it’s] easy to fall back into that pattern,” she explains, even if she’s doing better these days. “I feel like something has left my body, like some part of me is gone now, something that was making me so insecure. And it feels amazing.” She’s still strikingly petite, but she insists she’s healthy. Given her schedule, she’d have to be.
She’s been touring with Lolawolf—they’ve opened for Miley Cyrus and Lily Allen (“It was interesting, it was like an experiment,” she says about the shows), and released their debut album, Calm Down, last October. It received a curious amount of buzz, with critics praising the group’s ability to carve a niche out of their breathy, synth-and-drum-driven R&B dance tracks. She’ll also dominate theaters this spring and summer: In March, she returned as Christina in Insurgent, the second installment in the sci-fi dystopian franchise, The Divergent Series; in April, she joins Ethan Hawke and January Jones in the thriller Good Kills, and then in George Miller’s resurrection of Mad Max in May. The coming-of-age dramedy Dope (which also stars her friend A$AP Rocky) will hit theaters this summer after a bidding war for the movie erupted at Sundance. She’s also starring in a romantic comedy, Pretend We Are Kissing.
Being a Kravitz has afforded her mountains of opportunity. “It was very easy for me to get an agent when I wanted to act, for obvious reasons,” she says earnestly. “And I don’t know, maybe it’s not because they thought I was talented—I wasn’t the most talented girl in the world when I was 15. It was because my parents were famous, and they were like, ‘Cool, maybe we can make money off of that.’ ” She’ll admit that things were handed to her. “I know so many talented people that do the most amazing things but they need to work at a restaurant. I don’t. I can make all the art I want and get paid to do it—it’s fucking crazy. I’m so thankful for it.”
“YES! Play the new Drake!” Later that afternoon, we’re in a photo studio in Williamsburg for the cover shoot, and Kravitz’s taken up the role of de facto DJ, shouting out requests from her dressing area. Right now it’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, the mixtape Drake dropped last night (on which he rhymes: “Like Zoë mama, I go hippie”). Before, it was Rae Sremmurd’s SremmLife, which she rapped along to, word for word—as she does this, she occasionally sticks her tongue out to the right side of her mouth, just so that it peeks out a little bit (she does this when she’s being silly). Later, as she tries to position herself on black plastic chairs melted into awkward, obscure shapes, she warbles along with Drake’s “Over My Dead Body,” taking particular care with the chorus: “How I’m feeling it/Doesn’t matter/’Cause you know/I’m okay….”
Kravitz says she and Drake (“Aubrey,” to her) are “very good friends.” When I ask her about rumors that they were a couple, she smiles and laughs, less at the prospect of it and more at what seems to be the regularity with which she’s fielded this particular line of questioning. “I’m very flirtatious,” she pauses. “[But] he’s family to me. He’s a really, really awesome dude.” She says they became “really close” in the last few years and hang out often—with Kravitz’s friends—when he’s in New York. “We inspire each other,” she adds. “We play each other music.” Drake, for what it’s worth, has gone on record as saying, “Zoë Kravitz is like one of my favorite people in the world.”
She isn’t dating anyone right now because “no one ever asks me out.” The explanation sounds both reasonable and totally absurd: “When I tend to meet a guy who’s cool and is into me they’re like, ‘You’re so cool that I can’t handle it.’ ” But she concludes she’d rather be single and too cool to handle than simply “some chick.”
Kravitz says she’s getting recognized more often now, but it’s hard to believe she’s fully accepted her fame quite yet—or even wants it, or can fully digest it. “I know there are people who know who I am, but I don’t know how famous I am.”
“It’s not that I hate fame or don’t appreciate the response, it’s just not the fire,” she adds. “[Fame] for me is a result of famous parents and hopefully doing my own thing.”
Jaden and Willow Smith—two of the “coolest” people she knows—are in the same position, she says. “They’ve been given these opportunities and they do everything and they do everything as well as they can,” she says.
Kravitz and Jaden Smith starred together in the 2013 sci-fi film After Earth, and have become great friends. She talks about him like he’s her little brother. When I ask her what she thinks about his bizarre tweets, she defends him: “He’s 16 years old and is curious and is an artist.” She says it’s “hard for a kid in the spotlight”—something she’s all too familiar with—especially now with social media. While she rarely uses Twitter herself (“I don’t think people genuinely need to know what I’m thinking.”), she’s well aware of how the Internet has changed fame.
She remembers one particular photo on Instagram that caused a shitstorm in her comments a few weeks ago: She posted about the murders that took place in Nigeria and hashtagged “#AllLivesMatter.” While she understands and supports #BlackLivesMatter, she says, she “liked the idea of all lives matter.” It wasn’t long before her notifications were flooded with hate messages. “Who are these people?” she thought.
“It’s so crazy, the things people say on Instagram,” she says. “It’s a dark hole. I try not to look at it anymore.” She pauses between thoughts as though the conversation is making her uncomfortable. “The comments, like: I’m ugly, and I should kill myself. And then there’s like…people just…there’s nothing you could post.”
To a degree, she claims to understand the reflexive hate: “There’s this like ‘American Dream’—you want this life. It’s dangled in front of you. It’s this thing: You can’t have this, but look how cool it is,” she says. “I totally get it. I’d probably have a certain amount of anger toward that [if I was in that position].”
And her enjoyment of fame hasn’t been without guilt: “Sometimes it’s difficult for me to enjoy the fame. I guess you just have to trust that you did something awesome in a past life, like saved a kid from a burning home.”
Later at the studio, Kravitz sits on a wooden makeup chair, eating a salad and occasionally picking her teeth, while two styling assistants sit under the makeup vanity and try to remove the skintight, thigh-high latex boots that took nearly an hour to put on. She tells me she’s headed to “some Fendi party” tonight, and then Alexander Wang’s New York Fashion Week show tomorrow. When I ask her what her plans are for Valentine’s Day, her answer is forthright: “Dude, I’m gonna stay home, watch Netflix, and masturbate.”
It sounds like a nice—but unlikely—night for her, given Fashion Week, All-Star Weekend, and whatever other doors New York City has open for her that night. Could Kravitz actually leave behind her acting/singing career—and the fame? “Totally,” she says. “I’m so into what I’m doing right now, but I’m not going to do this forever.” She’d like to do photography and set design—things she’s passionate about. Or farm. “[Farmers] are the heroes of America,” she says. She envisions herself moving to the farm in upstate New York she visited on a field trip when she was a kid, or to Mexico, or farming communities around the world. “I’d like to take a year and do that,” she says. “I think it’d be great.”
She pauses, smiles, and laughs.
“Life goes on.”