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'When Guardians of the Galaxy was so successful,
the cast members were in shock,' says Zoe Saldana,
of the superhero smash. 'You know when you really
want to win the Lotto and you finally do, you go,
"I can't believe it"?'
Zoe, 38, knows all about scooping the jackpot.
She's now one of the most in-demand actresses
in Hollywood, with a bumper schedule ahead of
her. Three sequels to Avatar (the James Cameron
blockbuster which launched her to stardom) are in
pre-production, while a fourth Star Trek movie is
rumoured to be on the cards. Before that, though,
this month she'll be reprising her role as the
green-skinned Gamora in the eagerly awaited sequel
to Guardians..., the first instalment of which grossed

followers,' she says, noting that the response is 'very
unfiltered: It feels like they're sharing a gift with us. It's
the gift of sharing themselves honestly.'
Zoe is known for talking passionately about
subjects she feels strongly about - sexism, feminism,
politics and inequality, to name a few. So has voicing
her opinion ever landed her in trouble?
'Of course! I live in the public eye and culturally
we're still battling old stigmas: like "women are just
supposed to look pretty and say nice things". The
moment a woman shows a very personal interest in
an issue, she can quickly become "annoying". And
I've been considered that not just by men, but
also by other women. So many of us feel imprisoned
because of it, especially women in the entertainment

a staggering £635million globally in 2014.
'The first one was special because it was
different, and working with [director] James
Gunn was fantastic,' beams Zoe. 'He's such
an animated film-maker and an awesome
writer and editor.
'To come back for a sequel and for
it to be just as great was fantastic.'
Some A-listers only want to talk
about their latest project and, of
course, Zoe talks passionately
about the Marvel Studios sequel.
But free of any Hollywood
aloofness, she is refreshingly
straight-talking and open, and soon
the professional starts to blend freely
into the personal. Talk of her propensity
for playing otherworldly action heroines, for
example, leads us swiftly on to the subject of her
formidable Puerto Rican mother, Asalia.
Unable to afford childcare when she was widowed,
Asalia relinquished her jobs as a court translator and
hotel maid to raise her children, ploughing all her
savings into their private school education. 'I work
every day because I know my mum wanted to, and
she couldn't,' says Zoe. 'If I couldn't afford care, I
would be home with my children: because I make
the same decisions for them that my mum did for us.'

industry. You walk a fine line between saying
how you truly feel about something, and
saying what people are expecting you to say.
You can go from being the sexiest woman to the
biggest bitch in the room.'


Her family is clearly important to Zoe. You only have
to look at Cinestar Pictures: the YouTube channel she
runs with sisters Cisely and Mariel, which launched
last January and is aimed at millennial mums. 'We're
trying to find healing answers and solutions, and the
good thing about social media is no middle entities
can get in the way of us connecting directly with our

April 2017 BALAN CE


Zoe hasn't always been so
outspoken, though. Raised
in Queens, New York, her
life changed irrevocably at
the age of nine when her
father, Aridio, was killed in
a car crash and her mother
relocated the family to her
late husband's homeland, the
Dominican Republic. It was here
where Zoe discovered her passion for
dance, enrolling in the ECOS Espacio de
Danza Academy where she studied ballet, jazz and
modern Latin.
Less positively, though, Zoe and her sisters
were targets for bullies who disapproved of their
English tongue.
'It was a very traumatising time for me because I
didn't know how to stand up for myself,' she recalls.
'I was never equipped, trained or taught to defend
myself. My mother never raised me believing that
I was different, so the moment me and my sisters
started getting attacked, shock was the first reaction.
'Bullies can reach a depth within you that may
cause irreparable damage. There were years that
I felt ashamed of myself, thinking: "I should have
f***ing known better, I should have always stood up
for myself".'
Zoe's experience of being singled out made her
'fearless', but it also strengthened a belief instilled



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