We’re only a quarter of the way into 2023, but so far it has been a very good year for Zendaya. The 26-year-old American actor has already won a Golden Globe (her second) and a Critics Choice award for both her starring role in HBO’s bold teen-centric drama Euphoria, but due to her hectic work schedule, she couldn’t attend either ceremony to accept these accolades in person. And in late 2022, she made Emmy Award history by being both the youngest person and the first Black woman to win for lead actress in a drama series twice. “My greatest wish for Euphoria was that it would help heal people, and I just want to say thank you to everyone who has shared their story with me,” said Zendaya—who’s also now a producer on the series—in her emotional acceptance speech. “Anyone who has loved a Rue, or feels like they are Rue, I want you to know that I’m so grateful for your stories and I carry them with me and I carry them with her.”

Although Zendaya has captured (and broken) our hearts with her outstanding performance as 17-year-old drug addict Rue Bennett in two seasons of creator and director Sam Levinson’s megahit, she started acting long before Euphoria came along. She got her big break at 14, when she landed a starring role on a Disney Channel series, and she followed that with a string of other Disney series as well as modelling gigs and appearances in numerous music videos. She was even a contestant on Dancing With the Stars in 2013. But it was when she took on the character of MJ in Marvel’s Spider-Man reboot in 2017—starring opposite current love, Tom Holland—that she began to turn heads in Hollywood as a rising young talent. It’s a role that has shaped Zendaya’s career, and she now has three Spider-Man movies behind her. “Being part of the Spider-Man franchise has been very special,” she says. “The first one I did was my first big movie. I auditioned when I was 18, I made the movie when I was 19 and I’m 26 now. I’ve grown up with the characters.”

Michaiah Carter 

The young talent also became a Lancôme ambassador in 2019, joining the ranks of other brilliant women like Isabella Rossellini, Julia Roberts, Penélope Cruz, Kate Winslet and Lupita Nyong’o. “They are all obviously very talented, have created beautiful careers and have done amazing pieces of work,” says Zendaya. “I’ve admired all of them for so long.” In terms of working with the French beauty brand, Zendaya loves Lancôme’s spirit of collaboration. “I appreciate how we’re always trying new things,” she says of the partnership. “I like the fact that in my campaigns, we’ve been able to be a little bit experimental while still maintaining the heritage of the brand. Beyond that, Lancôme is known for its colour range—and that’s important to me.”

More recently, Zendaya finished filming the sequel to Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune—along with co-star and good friend Timothée Chalamet as well as some exciting new additions to the cast, like Florence Pugh, Austin Butler and Léa Seydoux—and it’s slated for a November 2023 release. In terms of when we’ll see what Rue and her friends get up to in a third season of Euphoria, fans will have to keep waiting—despite HBO confirming that it’s in the works, no date has been released.

Michaiah Carter 

For now, the award-winning actor is concentrating on upcoming projects, and she remains grounded when it comes to her ever-growing fame and style-icon status. Case in point: When she debuted a new short-bob haircut in late December, it became international news and was deemed the first new hair trend of 2023. “I’m just a person,” says Zendaya of her style choices. “I wear clothes that I like, and I have fun. But I also take it as a responsibility because I know that so many people relate to those things on a deeper level. I don’t want to feel untouchable. I’m just growing up and figuring it out as I go along.”

Late last year, we spoke with Zendaya about self-confidence, the joys of life, mental health, her go-to makeup products and what her parents instilled in her.

I’m just a person. I wear clothes that I like, and I have fun. But I also take it as a responsibility because I know that so many people relate to those things on a deeper level. I don’t want to feel untouchable. I’m  just growing up and figuring it out as I go along.

Michaiah Carter 

What does happiness mean to you?

“So much. I think with the past few years we’ve had, it’s important to prioritize happiness and the things that bring you joy and not feel bad for feeling joyful. Even small moments count. When I was in quarantine, the happiest thing for me was when Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion came out with ‘Savage Remix.’ That, to me, was so joyful. I was like, ‘I don’t care. I’m playing this all day, every day.’ In the shower, finishing a puzzle—this song got me through.”

How do you turn a bad day around?

“I hang out with my dog—he’s like my kid. One day, I’ll have kids and he’ll be jealous. But until then, he’s my furry child. I just want to protect him. There’s something about the unconditional love of a dog. They’re so happy to see you. They will always show up for you and always be excited to see you. You can be gone for five minutes and when you come back, they’re like, ‘Yo. You’re here!’”

Where’s your happy place?

“When I get in my zone, I feel the happiest. It could be when I’m at work and I’m proud of the work that I’m doing or it could be when I’m cleaning my house and everything is so organized.”

What’s the most important message your parents instilled in you?

“The importance of having confidence and a strong sense of self. My parents always let me choose what I was going to wear when I was little. They didn’t pick out my outfits, even when I was three or four. An outfit might have been a jersey, plastic heels, a headband and basketball shorts. It made me happy. That had a huge impact on me and my ability to feel like I can wear whatever I want and dress for myself. My parents also taught me to never stand by when someone needs you. Once, I got in trouble at school: Someone got bullied, and I saw it happen. My parents showed up and pulled me out of class. I was like, ‘Why am I getting in trouble? I didn’t do it.’ And they were like, ‘Exactly. That’s the problem. You didn’t do anything.’ That became a lifelong [belief in] always standing up for what’s right.”

What advice would you give to young women about staying grounded while maintaining their self-confidence?

“I think this is more important now than ever. You can’t compare yourself to anyone because you’re not like anyone else. You’re always going to win the ‘you’ game. No one will ever be as good at being you as you are. So embrace that and find the things that make you happy and bring you joy and make you feel fulfilled. It’s one thing to be inspired by someone, but comparison—that’s a slippery slope.”

Mental health is a big issue these days. How do you help preserve your own mental health?

“My favourite thing to do—the thing that has helped me the most—is make a list of things I’m grateful for every night before I go to bed. Sometimes I write it down, and sometimes I just say it out loud. But simply saying ‘I’m thankful for these things’ really helps put life in perspective. And if there’s something I’m struggling with or trying to figure out, I’ll put a question out to the universe. I find that putting it out there, saying that I’m looking for a solution—and giving thanks for the answer that’s coming—keeps me in a good, positive space.”

What social issues are close to your heart?

“I’m the daughter of two educators, so education is massively important to me. I’ve seen how it can change someone’s life and how the quality of education you receive gets better if you have the means, and [I see] the disparity in that. I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to an education. Knowledge is power and a gift no one can take back. Once you have it, it’s yours. Sustainability is very important to me too. I’m still learning about how I can be better at it and what my piece of the puzzle is. Because everyone has to do better and be smarter about how we create and do things so we have a future for our babies, for my little nieces and nephews.”

I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to an education. Knowledge is power and a gift no one can take back. Once you have it, it’s yours.

Michaiah Carter 

Who has most influenced your idea of beauty?

“My mom was not into quintessentially glamorous things. She was a teacher and focused most of her energy on being a teacher, but to me, she was still extremely beautiful. I wanted to be like her. On the other hand, I had people like my grandmother, who was always glamorous and liked getting dressed up and wearing heels. I think having both sides showed me that there’s really no one definition of what it means to be beautiful. I learned to embrace all of it.”

What is your first memory of Lancôme products?

“[Being with] my grandma. She’d let me go in her bathroom and play with her makeup and do makeup on other people, like her or my cousins or whoever was around. I specifically remember a blue or blue-grey eyeliner. I just loved playing with it.”

Which products do you recommend to your friends?

“I always recommend Lancôme for its staple eye products, like its Le Crayon Khôl eyeliner, its eyeshadows and the Lash Idôle and Le 8 Hypnôse mascaras. Lancôme has the best mascaras. And lipsticks. I have so many Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge lipsticks, it’s actually ridiculous—and funny because I don’t usually wear anything other than red or nude. I wish I was a bit more experimental with lip colours. Also, I’m blown away by the new Teint Idôle concealer, which is lightweight but blends very well.”

What’s the best tip you’ve ever learned from a professional makeup artist?

“When I was a kid, I learned how to do my own makeup pretty quickly because I often felt that other people didn’t do it right. One thing I learned is how to build with cream foundations and brush and buff them into the skin—and to not be afraid to play around. Oh, and to do my face after I do my eyes. I don’t understand when people do their eyes after their face. You start with your eyes! That way, any fallout doesn’t matter.”

You’ve said that you have sensitive skin—how do you take care of it?

“I’ve figured out things that work for me, and I stick with them. That was hard for me when I was younger. I’d be impatient and want something to work, like, tomorrow. Eventually, I learned that results happen over time. As for core products, I love the Génifique serum. It’s nice and light but very hydrating, and I especially love it when I travel. Keeping your skin hydrated is so important.”

Do you have a signature fragrance?

“This is really cool: One of my first missions as a Lancôme ambassador was to be the face of a new fragrance that [the brand was] launching. There was a bottle, but the fragrance hadn’t been selected yet. They gave me three different options, and I got to pick what is now Idôle. So I feel a kinship to it. To me, fragrances are very emotional, attached to memories and meaning. My sister used a particular body spray, and anytime I walk by someone wearing it, I’m immediately reminded of being little. I attach to Idôle the memory of first becoming an ambassador, which is a really happy memory for me. That’s why I love it.”

What’s your greatest hope for the future?

“That people become a little bit more empathetic. It would drive us to do more things for each other.”

What’s the mantra you live by?

“Be a nice person.”


Photographer: Michaiah Carter
Stylist: Law Roach
Makeup artist: Sheika Daley
Hairstylist: Antoinette Hill