Zendaya has just been announced as a Lancôme Global Ambassador when we sit down with her at the Four Seasons in L.A. With a poise and sense of style that belie her 22 years, she looks every inch a face of the luxury beauty house, but how does she feel to be joining a group of such formidable women, like Penélope Cruz and Lupita Nyong’o? Excited? Nervous? “Very honoured! And very lucky,” says Zendaya, as she leans back on the sofa with a smile.
Timing is everything, and, Zendaya explains, it was the right moment for her to join the Lancôme family as the face of its new fragrance, the chypre-floral Idôle. “I’m stepping into a new phase of my career and my life—coming into my womanhood and really becoming an adult,” says the actress, singer and rising style star, who turns 23 this month and is currently starring in the gritty HBO teen drama Euphoria. “So when it came to the beauty space, Lancôme felt like a step into that mature world. It has a certain elegance and timeless class that aligns with what I want to do.”
The fragrance is a feminine, worldly scent that feels fresh and familiar at the same time. Familiarity is something Zendaya can relate to when it comes to perfume. “Scent memories are everything,” she says, giving the example that if she smells something that reminds her of the hair gel her older sister used to use, she is right back to “being a little kid getting [her] hair done.” The California-raised star says she realized recently that she will now be associated with “being someone’s smell,” adding excitedly, “I get to be a part of that journey for them.”
Like many of her generation, she is hyper-aware of the impact she has on her fans, including the 58 million people who currently follow her on Instagram. When asked if she feels pressure to represent her generation or to be a voice of empowerment, she admits, “It’s sometimes very hard to think about everyone and everything before I do something, but even if it’s at my own expense, I try to do what’s best for everyone.”
She adds: “I was talking to my mom the other day, and she said, ‘You realize you are the only one who cares as much as you do!’ [Laughs] In this industry, people don’t care as much as you care. So that’s the hard part: being one of the few people who really, really care!” She shakes her head, thinking of the struggle. “What does that [responsibility and] balance look like without letting it weigh too heavily on you?”
Zendaya might be too considerate of others, but there is one area where she is unbothered by what others think: her fashion sense, which she honed at an early age thanks to parents who let her explore self-expression.
“They just allowed me to pick out what I wanted, which helped with my sense of self,” she says. “That kind of freedom—wearing what I liked and it not being about matching or creating outfits—it helps in the beginning. I’ve gained a lot of confidence [in how I dress] and find fashion to be very empowering because I’ve allowed myself to stop caring. And I think that’s an exciting place to be.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of ELLE Canada. Subscribe now.