Zoe Kravitz red carpet | ELLE UK

Zoë Kravitz On Female Competition And Why We Shoud All Give Up On Perfection

Big Little Lies actress Zoë Kravitz sat down with ELLE UK to talk about breaking female stereotypes and the pressures of beauty and femininity in an age hell-bent on reaching perfection.

If you're fortunate enough to have already binge-watched all seven episodes of Big Little Lies (without having to borrow your other half's Sky subscription and endure several failed attempts to illegally download the season online), you'll be well-acquainted to actress Zoë Kravitz's yoga-loving, jewellery-making character, Bonnie Carlson, who is more likely to drive her teenage step-daughter to Planned Parenthood than for a Happy Meal at McDonalds.

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With the yogi's affinity for life and acceptance, her effervescent smile and bohemian-athleisure wardrobe that has you thinking you too might be able to pull off leggings and a crop top for a trip to Starbucks, let's just say Bonnie is millennial perfection incarnate.

Actually, that's putting it lightly. She's sickeningly perfect – a description the 28-year-old Los Angeles-born actress couldn't agree with more.

'When I was reading the script, I was annoyed by how perfect she was,' she tells us over the phone from New York. 'But, it was interesting to channel and justify that, while not make it appear artificial.'

'The thing about Bonnie is that she's genuine, so you have to try to understand a person like that who is so patient and kind, and learn from that character. I totally understand being annoyed by her,' she adds.

Over the course of our brief conversation, the real Kravitz (behind her famous parents, singer Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, high-profile campaigns for the likes of Calvin Klein and Balenciaga and 2.8 million Instagram followers) ekes into frame, revealing a woman who is undeniably present, charming and the kind of effortless, down-to-earth ELLE girl we all crave to be– a woman who cherishes her ability to influence and be part of a generation that demands change.

On striving to be perfect

If there's one thing Kravitz despises, it's society's obsession with comparing women.

Discussing her hit HBO miniseries – produced by actresses Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, the New York-based star explains: '[Big Little Lies] really touches upon competition between women. When you're any kind of minority – a race or a woman – sometimes you feel there's not enough room for all of us here.'

It's not hard to see why she feels this way.

Throughout the world – be it in literature, television, politics and advertising – so much of society's perception of beauty is driven by the aim to make women feel there is such a thing as perfection and perpetuate the myth that it is not only possible but imperative to improve oneself.

When you're any kind of minority – a race or a woman – sometimes you feel there's not enough room for all of us here.

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From beauty brands sold with the taglines 'Stay Perfect' right to the Victoria's Secret 'Perfect Body' campaign in 2014, which featured only a line-up of svelte VS models, we are constantly bombarded with the message that 'perfection' is confined to a very narrow spectrum of slender, white women. And we're all fighting to get into that 'perfection' bracket, even though for most of us, it will be impossible.

'You think that if someone is better at something or fighting for the same thing were told we're meant to compete with each other instead of breaking down all the walls and boundaries and supporting each other,' Zoe explains.

On helping other women to succeed

There's a stereotype about women on their way to the top that we can't seem to shake. We're a gender of elbow-shovers, hair-pullers, helicopter mothers and bossy matriarchs.

But cattiness and mean-spirited competitiveness is something this actress won't stand for.

'There's room for all of us and I think that's something you see at the end of the series. If we all stick up for each other, we will win,' Zoe notes.

'It's about understanding when you hold another woman back, you're holding yourself back,' she admits.

'We're all connected and fighting for the same fight for equality and respect. I understand it's hard not to be competitive with ourselves when the whole world is telling us that's the way to do it, but I think it's just so easy to see that there's an easier more attractive way to go about it,' she adds.

On Diversity

Zoë – who recently opened up about her 'biracial identity' ('Racism is very real, and white supremacy is going strong', she told Allure magazine) – believes the way in which to celebrate diversity and encourage a more collaborative nature among women is to engage truthfully and honest with each other.

When it comes to the media, we asked her for her thoughts on what she reckoned women's mags like ours can do better in the name of diversity and representation.

Advising ELLE UK, she says: 'You need to engage with your readers, ask what they want to see, who feels like they're not represented. It's about having real conversations with the people you want to connect to and then say: 'Okay, I'm going to discover that'.

'We need a dialogue between 16 year-old black and white girls who can talk about race. As someone who is out there to inspire young women, I think you have to allow yourselves to be more vulnerable and having young women see the humanity in us, in you, in your writers, in the people you interview, that's the most important thing.'

Zoë Kravitz and her mother, actress Lisa Bonet
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'Some girls often feel separate from the people they see in the magazines or the people they read about and it's about unity. Engage and ask questions and then investigate those questions,' she adds.

On redefining beauty

The drive to compete and compare with women is a subject Kravitz – who stars as front woman to her R&B/electropop band, Lolawolf – knows all too well following years of suffering from an eating disorder during her teenage years, which she links to being a woman and surrounded by fame at a young age.

Reflecting on actress Jennifer Lawrence's recent calling for Hollywood to embrace a 'new normal' body type, having long framed healthily proportioned women as overweight, Zoë is keen to highlight society's need to redefine widely accepted understandings of beauty.

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A post shared by Zoë Kravitz (@zoeisabellakravitz) on

'There's so much pressure put on women to look a certain way, with the ideas of beauty and femininity and what that means. Amy Schumer had a funny stand up bit about her wearing a bikini and some magazine calling her 'brave' and she said, 'when you wear a bikini you don't want to be called 'brave'.'

'There's this idea of what beauty is and how your body is meant to look and if you don't fill that gap, but you're still confident and do your thing, then you become pegged for becoming the unconventionally 'not hot' person who is brave. We need to stop analysing everyone so much and let people be confident,' she adds.

It's about understanding when you hold another woman back, you're holding yourself back.

Instead of defining women as 'plus-size' or in need of diets and exercise, Kravitz thinks the media has a role to play in echoing the belief that beauty isn't define by one body shape, skin tone or gender.

Solange Knowles, Zoe Kravitz and Amandla Stenberg at the Alexander Wang 2017 show
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'When women only see one style or one kind of body over and over again, that tells you that that's the only thing out there and you're different.

We need to stop analysing everyone so much and let people be confident.

'It can't always be [a case of] 'we're patting ourselves on the back because we're showing women who aren't a size 2, isn't that amazing?' It needs to be constant and out there and show as being all beautiful so women see a reflection of themselves.

'It can't just be one article or an issue in a magazine – that doesn't feel fair to me,' she adds.

Earlier this month, Kravitz walked the red carpet at the 2017 Met Gala, wearing an Audrey Hepburn, Funny Face-inspired dress by Oscar de la Renta, with a bodice of dyed-black fresh roses and peroxide-blonde crop to honour the Fifties icon – a night she describes as a celebration of 'creativity'.

'There were all different kinds of colours and genders and different kinds of people that were there. I love that the Met Gala has shifted into this place where people are able to express themselves.

'That place is fun, people let loose, dance, and talk. I like the idea that it's a community of different artists coming together,' she gushed.

And while we might have all been swooning over images of her pink millennial dress and Tacori jewels, the actress reveals her favourite moment of the night was dancing with the event's hottest dancer – American fashion desinger, Michael Kors.

'He was getting down. At almost every Met Ball, him and I have a good dance together and he's wonderful,' she notes.

He's not the only one.

Zoë Kravitz launches Canon's 365 Days of Summer competition to find a storyteller who will spend a year traveling the world identifying and living a new story every day. To enter, simply share your most memorable summer picture on Instagram with the story behind it (no more than 50 words), tagging @canonuk and #LiveForTheStory

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