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If there’s a secret to having it all, Zoe Saldana hasn’t found it yet.
The actress, who plays bounty hunter Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, is also raising twins Cy and Bowie, 2, and infant Zen with her artist husband, Marco Perego-Saldana (yes, he took her last name).
Saldana answers with her characteristic good-humored candor: “Our assistant, our nanny, and our housekeeper. They are literally raising our children with us. It’s because of them I am able to rip myself away as long as I can, and my husband as well, to do what we do. They’re teaching us how to manage our pain as they’re raising our kids with us.”
It’s the rare celebrity who admits to having help at home, not doing everything single-handedly, regardless of the fact that it’s logistically impossible to work 16-hour days without having someone cook dinner or clean the bathroom.
She’s careful not to downplay the impact her long hours have on her brood. “When you’re away a little too much, it compromises a lot more things. It’s a sacrifice and a pain that will never go away. You take every day at a time. If something changes in their behavior, you know how to adjust to it,” Saldana says.
But then again, she’s justifiably proud of everything she has earned and wants that same sense of achievement to trickle down to her boys. Saldana, after all, wasn’t born into a Hollywood family, nor was anything ever handed to her.
“I don’t want to raise kids who put other people’s priorities first. They need to know how to put their priorities where they need to be,” says Saldana, 38. “You show them how you fight for your dreams.”
For Saldana, the fear of being typecast by starring in three science fiction tentpoles — the Star Trek, Avatar, and Guardians of the Galaxy series — is outweighed by a desire to be a female role model in movies typically headlined by men. She recalls growing up and being “famished” for someone strong, smart, and powerful on the big screen who wasn’t a dude, someone like Ellen Ripley, the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the original Alien. And she sees the same hunger in her sons.
“I’m raising three boys as someone who has done three movies that have become franchises. My boys are obsessed with female superheroes. And we have to search high and low to find those toys,” she says.
Born in New York City and raised partially there and in the Dominican Republic (where her father grew up), Saldana is the middle of three daughters. But now, she says, she’s fully immersed in the world of boys. Her sons “are demanding a female presence as much as a male presence. I am accepting this ironic challenge that this universe has presented to me. I learn every day that men are marvelous and wonders of light, the same way I’ve been feeling about women, because I come from a family of matriarchs,” she says. “I’ve married a man that I worship every day, and I have sons that humble me to no end.”
Saldana is tight with her sisters. So playing Gamora, her Guardians of the Galaxy character, who has a fraught and ugly relationship with her sibling Nebula, was, well, a challenge at best; they’re pitted against each other by their abusive dad, Thanos. “I was emotionally compromised. I’m a sucker for father stories. I lost my dad when I was 9,” she says. “I can’t imagine a moment in our lives where (my sisters and I) have reached a place where we’ve caused irreparable damage. I went there, with Gamora and Nebula.”
There’s something utterly irresistible about Saldana, who’s effusive without being fake or cloying. Her husband is nearby during this evening interview, and when he walks up to her, Saldana recalls how he instantly charmed her when they first laid eyes on each other.
“I met this man, I shook his hand, and I’m like, ‘I’m going to have babies with you. I’m going to marry you. And my life is going to be done,'” she recalls of their first encounter. “After shaking hands at 6 a.m. on a plane, six months later we were married. Eight months later, we were pregnant. It wasn’t a joke. It really happened.”
The two tied the knot in a secret wedding in 2013 and, to this day, they generally keep details about their lives private. They never show their sons’ faces on social media, a decision Saldana said she made because her boys should choose if and when they become public figures.
There is, however, one source of friction Saldana wants to address, when asked about her hubby’s gorgeously tousled tresses. “I’ll tell you his hair secret. He uses all of my hair products. That’s his secret. At least once every two weeks, I’m like, ‘Marco, I just bought this conditioner. Can you stop using it?’ He’s a dude. He’ll squeeze half a bottle and put it on his hair. Which is why I don’t buy expensive products to use on us,” she says.
When it comes to red carpet style, however, Saldana is all about the glam. She veers from slinky Roksanda and Alexander McQueen frocks to a monochromatic Prabal Gurung she donned in Hollywood. She’s a fan of both established brands and newcomers. One look that particularly stood out to her was the sculptural black Ulyana Sergeenko she wore to the London premiere of Guardians.
She views fashion as an extension of her work and not just something that’s foisted on her as an A-list celebrity: “If you make art out of everything you’re doing, the child in you can survive and not grow bitter or sarcastic or cynical,” she says. “I always push for sexiness, because as I grow older, my insecurity gets larger.”
Wait, hold up. Saldana, with her willowy frame — the product of years of ballet as a youngster — and flawless skin, suffers from self-doubt? Of course she does, and refuses to pretend otherwise. She talks about the challenges of raising mixed-race boys and learning as they grow, while being mixed herself (her mom is Puerto Rican, her dad Dominican).
“I’m a human being, I’m an artist, I’m a woman in America during an unconventional presidency. It’s only logical for me to be honest. I owe the audience that much,” she says.
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