Zendaya channels the 'iconic Black women' who paved the way for her success in new Vogue Italia cover

The ‘Euphoria’ star graces the cover of the July issue in looks that evoke legends like Josephine Baker and Eartha Kitt.
June 28, 2022 2:25 p.m. EST
Instagram/Vogue Instagram/Vogue

Emmy-winning Euphoria star Zendaya is on the cover of the new July issue of Vogue Italia, and her accompanying interview and photoshoot are an homage to all of the classic Black movie stars and Hollywood legends that came before her and paved the way for her success. 

Photographed by Elizaveta Porodina (the same photog who shot those eyebrow-raising portraits of Brad Pitt in British GQ), and styled by longtime collaborator Law Roach, the Spider-Man: No Way Home star evokes the early 20th century glamour embodied by Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Dorothy Dandridge, and even 80s legends like Sade or Grace Jones.

“I feel incredibly grateful to be in this position because, without the women of the past, especially, iconic Black women who have done what I've done before, I wouldn't be able to exist in this space,” she tells the magazine. “So with every new accomplishment, with every new thing I learn, I hope that I can be a part of paying that forward and hopefully it'll be easier for the next person.”

The actor, singer, dancer, and former Disney star has had to contend with racism in the entertainment industry for years, notably in 2015 when E! Fashion Police co-host Giuliana Rancic criticized the actor for sporting dreadlocks on a red carpet, and made disparaging stereotypes about Zendaya’s hair. Zendaya clapped back, calling it an “ignorant slur.”

So not only is her talent under the microscope, so is her body, but as she tells Vogue Italia, she finds that even though the job of acting might seem a bit silly, she understands the power it has on audiences to heal wounds. 

“Sometimes I feel kind of silly being an actor,” she admits. “Because it’s like I make-believe for a living, which may seem ridiculous, but then I remember the stories that I'm telling & the reasons behind them. Especially as of recent with Euphoria, I had so many people reach out and share their experiences of connecting with it, in the sense of loss or addiction or grief or mental illness and their struggles with that.”

She continues, “People find their connection points to these characters that I feel incredibly lucky to embody and in that, they feel very connected to me and they've been able to heal and grow and learn and mend parts of their own past, and that to me is invaluable. That gives me purpose.”

Of course this wouldn’t be a Zendaya profile if she didn’t speak about the power of fashion and beauty. We’ve known for a long time that Zendaya loves to play around with fashion, and she also does her own makeup more often than you would believe. For this shoot, she let hair stylist Antoinette, and makeup artist Raoúl do the heavy lifting, but she still made sure to express how fashion and design give her another outlet for creative expression.

“I always loved clothes and they were in many ways a tool of expression,” she admits. “Fashion has taught me so much about myself and how to be so much more fearless in a lot of different ways.”

“It has also helped me in other avenues of my life whether it be business or even as an actress to be more fearless and to not be so concerned with other people's point of view of what I look like or what I'm wearing,” she adds. For the cover, she’s wearing a Valentino dress and a Bulgari necklace.

The Malcolm & Marie star is clearly obsessed with the finished cover, because she gushed on her Instagram right after it dropped, “Such a dream shooting this cover, thank you so much @vogueitalia for having me✨” Even photographer Porodina commented, “Working with you is a dream and i dont want to wake up.”

The comments section is full of fans and fellow celebs alike, all expressing how low-key obsessed they are with the profile. Pop star Lorde called it, “Phenomenal,” and Z's Euphoria co-star Storm Reid simply exclaimed, “Wow wowowow.”

You can read the full profile in English here, or in Italian here

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