Celebrating strong women has always been part of our DNA, which is why we’re particularly thrilled to share this month’s original beauty editorial featuring Danai Gurira, a woman who is fearless in all arenas. In honor of the return of her hit series The Walking Dead—season five premiered last night on AMC—in which she plays protagonist Michonne in a high-stakes post-apocalyptic world, we turned the spotlight on all the things Gurira is not afraid of, starting with bright makeup.
Gurira is not afraid of: color.
While most actresses tend to stick to one of two looks—old-Hollywood glamour or fresh-faced natural makeup—Gurira has no qualms about going for something bolder. “Me and color work well together,” she says as we discuss today’s palette of blue, pink, and orange. In fact, she’s not afraid of embracing her femininity, especially in the realm of makeup and skincare. We got on the topic of best beauty tips, and Gurira let us in on her number-one secret: Drink a lot of water. “It hit me in my 30s. Jennifer Aniston says it all the time. I was like, ‘What is she talking about?’ and then finally I saw it. It makes a difference if you drank water or if you didn’t.” Gurira also swears by the essentials in her makeup bag, a M.A.C. foundation and Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment ($23). The one beauty trick Gurira hasn’t quite figured out yet, however? “I do tend to try a little eye, but I’m terrible at it,” she says. “I can swing a sword, but running this tiny little thing across the eyelid is a little different for me.”
Gurira is not afraid to: kick ass.
Gurira’s character Michonne wields a samurai sword as her weapon of choice for battling zombies. “She is a woman of unapologetic strength, and I thought that was an interesting character to explore,” Gurira says. There’s a likeness between Gurira and Michonne, too. “I am not as agile as her, probably not as smart, not as strategic, and not as chill, but we both definitely have a fighter in us,” she says. “We are women who can’t hide our strength, and can’t downplay it, no matter how hard we try.”
Gurira is not afraid of: physical strength.
Arriving to set in a sleeveless jumpsuit, Gurira’s toned arms were on full display, much to the envy of everyone around her. When asked about staying fit, the actress explained the importance of listening to your body. “I bounce around a lot,” she says. “I took up Pilates, and I’ve been swimming more and more. Sometimes I’m such a gym rat and just want to feel weight resistance, and then sometimes I do Jillian Michaels.”
Credits: Preen by Thorton Bregazzi Skylar Coat ($2065); Prada dress; Ashley Pittman Samaki Bronze and Horn Earrings ($395); Yakira Rona Flame Bracelet ($10,000); Kathy Rose Sterling Silver Yellow Gold Plated Eagle Ring With Citrine Heads ($3800, 323.822.3600).
Gurira is not afraid of: mental strength.
The Iowa-born, Zimbabwe-raised actress is all too familiar with the hot-button issue of female struggles and feminism. “There’s a saying in Africa, if you give a woman empowerment, you empower a community, you empower men, you empower man,” she says. “When women become empowered and live in their strength it’s beneficiary to others, and I think as young women today we sometimes forget that we are standing on the struggle of other women. Those women had to stand up to make a change, and they were not popular, and now we’re making them unpopular again.”
Credits: Preen by Thorton Bregazzi Skylar Coat ($2065); Prada dress; Ashley Pittman Samaki Bronze and Horn Earrings ($395); Kathy Rose Sterling Silver Yellow Gold Plated Eagle Ring With Citrine Heads ($3800, 323.822.3600).
Gurira is not afraid to: express herself on stage.
When Gurira moved from the United States to Zimbabwe before her sixth birthday, it was a powerful time for the African country. And it was during grade school there that she discovered the power of theater. “A friend found the American book For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf ($8) by Ntozake Shange, and she directed the play in my high school and had me do the final massive monologue,” Gurira says. “That experience taught me two things: that I had a passion for this craft, which was something I couldn’t ignore, and secondly, that there was some connection I had with America and Zimbabwe. I didn’t know how those things were going to play out, but I knew they would be my life path.”
Gurira is not afraid to: support other women.
The life path Gurira is ultimately taking is that of a successful playwright and theater and screen actress. “I write about African women, that’s really my topic. I have no shame or qualm in it because it’s a very underrepresented topic, which is part of the reason I started to write.” With so many wonderful experiences under her belt, Gurira pays it forward with a not-for-profit organization she co-founded called Almasi Collaborative Arts. “We bring professionalism, education, and collaboration to the Zimbabwe dramatic artist. We take Americans to Zimbabwe to teach and train and we bring Zimbabweans to America to get mentored. I love seeing how Americans are transformed when they spend time with the students we connect with them.”
Credits: Thakoon Daisy Imprint Cape Sweater ($690); Yakira Rona 14k Rose Gold Flame Earrings ($3000, 323.822.3600); Dionea Orcini Pink Sapphires and Amethyst Rings ($4350, 305.864.0202) in 18K Rose Gold.
Now busy filming season five of The Walking Dead in Atlanta and writing a new play about Zimbabweans in Minnesota, Gurira strives to represent female strength to the masses. “It’s really about giving women the voice and a face.” We'd say mission accomplished.
Credits: Sacai Multicolor Cotton/Cupro Plaid Blouse With Scarf Tie ($1483, 310.274.8800); Sacai Multicolor Polyester Plaid Wrap Skirt ($1426); Gemma Redux Flora Long Drop Earrings ($130) in Green Onyx; Zimmermann Keltie Pumps ($520).
Photographer: Justin Coit
Hair: Cori Bardo
Makeup: Jo Strettell
Stylist: Zoe Costello
Manicurist: Kimmie Kyees