Zoë Kravitz Talks Lipstick, Finding Balance, and Her Modern Take on "Having it All"

Updated 08/22/19
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At present, I'm sweating on a subway platform watching a rat scurry across the tracks. In about 13 minutes, I'll be in a suite at The Plaza Hotel with Zoë Kravitz. That type of dissonance feels so utterly New York, doesn't it? Grit paired with glamour. It's classic

As is the setting of our conversation, lest we forget The Plaza is ripe with Old Hollywood history: Cary Grant gets kidnapped at the Oak bar in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Barbara Streisand meets Robert Redford at the Fifth Avenue entrance in The Way We Were. Marlene Dietrich took up residency in one of the suites. And, coincidentally, classic is the same word Kravitz uses to describe the collection of lipsticks she created with YSL. "We started with the classics, just nudes and reds, because I wanted to make colors I'd wear on a daily basis."

Zoe Kravitz Interview YSL
 YSL

The new shades launch this week, though this isn't the first time Kravitz has worked with the brand. Far from it, in fact. "When I started working with YSL [in 2016], it was because of what it represents—it’s so classic." There's that word again. But Kravitz embodies a new guard, an entirely different set of Hollywood notables who feel the same tension I mentioned earlier. She sets up interviews at The Plaza Hotel and is the face of one of the most iconic brands in the industry, but her spirit is unfixed. Like New York, there's not just one thing that defines her. "[The brand] allows me to be myself. They're not trying to manipulate what I am, and who I am, to sell a product. For me, it needs to feel honest," she says.

Kravitz is wearing bright green nail polish when we meet, I notice it before anything else. She's wrapped in a sweater that could likely fit three more of her. Her zen-like sensibility is immediately palpable, her voice calm and soothing. She compliments my outfit—I abstain from telling her I'd gotten dressed with her in mind—and we start talking lipstick. "Colors and textures are really important to me," she tells me. She laments how shine can make a huge difference in a lipstick and how fun it was to hone in on the specific details that made her, and her lips, feel good throughout the process. "In everything I love, the details are what make it special. In film, music, clothing, art—it's all about the details," she muses.

Zoe Kravitz YSL
 YSL

In film, music, clothing, art—it's all about the details.

The actress, singer, and model is a chameleon in the most genuine sense of the word, both professionally and otherwise. She's a Sagittarius, blunt and straightforward, though sometimes insensitive (her words, not mine), and incredibly social. "I love living in New York for that reason, the pulsing energy of life," she coos. She takes on projects that span movies, television, music, and beauty, and the results are shockingly seamless. Most recently, she stars in HBO's chilling and addicting Big Little Lies alongside some of the biggest names in the industry: Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Meryl Streep, to name a few. They all bring a special, unique something to the show—allowing for their differences in age and family life to mold a more modern view of adulthood and relationships. "They're ambitious and busy, but they do such a great job making time for the things and people they love. It inspires me to try and do the same," Kravitz says of her co-stars.

Zoe Kravitz Lipstick
 YSL

Find time to do the things you love with the people you love.

Kravitz and I are the same age, 30, and seem to agree it's an interesting crossroads. We discuss growing up, learning to live well (as best we can) and what that means for a coming-of-age woman in 2019. That, and our shared affection for facials from Christine Chin and Biologique Recherche products. "Coming up in the industry tricked me into thinking that beauty is something else," she shares. "My journey has been detaching from that idea, and allowing myself to discover what I think is beautiful, not what I’m being told is beautiful." It's a poetic sentiment, one that is devastatingly accurate and hopeful just the same. Perhaps growing into a fulfilled, happy adult is really just a series of unlearnings, and, according to Kravitz, a little bit of discipline. "Water, sleep, sweat, and getting off our phones," she responds quickly when ask about wellness. "My husband and I have a no phone in the bedroom rule. So, no one’s looking at it immediately in the morning, or lying in bed at night scrolling." But, she continues, "It's not about taking extreme measures—like, I'm not going to get a flip phone," she laughs. "It's important to strike balance between all the good things that can come from your phone—work, inspiration, connectedness—and a degree of separation. Solitude, nature, and freedom. It's knowing your limits. I think that's our biggest struggle right now. It’s hard for me. But I’m trying to be better about it."

We finish our conversation beaming at each other (or perhaps that was just me) and I take one last look at her before walking out of that storied Plaza Hotel suite. Her features are delicate and fierce in equal measure, almost awe-inspiring, and her demeanor has not changed since the moment I walked in. She has a really serene presence, a quiet yet powerful charm I still have yet to properly describe in words. To borrow from a text another journalist sent after her own interview, "She's zen as fuck, but also bold and outspoken. I am in love with her and her mind." There you have it. She's New York. She's classic. She's a vibe.

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