Zoë Kravitz Had to ‘Un-brainwash’ Herself to Find Her Place in Black Culture

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 13, 2015

Zoë Kravitz hasn’t always been comfortable in her skin. In her cover story in Nylon’s August 2015 issue, the "Dope" star says it took some work to figure out what blackness meant to her. The daughter of legendary half-black, half-white parents Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz, the actress-slash-singer grew up attending a predominately white school and recalls telling her classmates, “I’m just as white as y’all.”

I identified with white culture, and I wanted to fit in. I didn’t identify with black culture, like, I didn’t like Tyler Perry movies, and I wasn’t into hip-hop music. I liked Neil Young. Black culture is so much deeper than that, but unfortunately that is what’s fed through the media. That’s what people see. That’s what I saw. But then I got older and listened to A Tribe Called Quest and watched films with Sidney Poitier, and heard Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. I had to un-brainwash myself. It’s my mission, especially as an actress.

Kravitz says her expanded view of race crosses over into the film roles she pursues. “I don’t want to play everyone’s best friend. I don’t want to play the role of a girl struggling in the ghetto. It’s not that that story isn’t important, but I saw patterns and was like, ‘I don’t relate to these people,’” she says. She did find that she related to the characters in her film "Dope," which centers on a geeky black kid who loves ’90s-era hip-hop. “It hit all the points that I believe in. I know those people. I got the sense of humor,” she says.

She also shares that she has been turned down for roles because she was too “urban.” “In the last Batman movie, they told me that I couldn’t get an audition for a small role they were casting because they weren’t ‘going urban,’” she said. “It was like, ‘What does that have to do with anything?’ I have to play the role like, ‘Yo, what’s up, Batman? What’s going on wit chu?’”

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