Welcome to Mogul's new interview featuring Zoe Saldana!
You likely know Zoe as an actress from Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy and the Star Trek films. She is also a wife, mother and entrepreneur. Today, Zoe launches BESE, a digital media platform. BESE's mission is to reshape the cultural narrative by shining light on the untold stories that reflect today's America.
In our interview, learn more about BESE. Also, why did Zoe start acting? What's her dream for our country and its future? What's Zoe's advice for aspiring performers? Find out the answers to these and more questions:
Here are Zoe's #Takeaways:
Jessica Lipps (Interviewer): Where were you born?
Zoe Saldana (Guest): I was born in Passaic, NJ. I grew up in Queens, NY and the Dominican Republic.
Jessica: What took you to the Dominican Republic?
Zoe: My father passed away in a car accident. My mother became a single mom raising three girls and times were challenging. She moved to the Caribbean to have the support of family.
Jessica: How old were you when you moved?
Zoe: I was 9.
Jessica: What was your experience like in the Dominican Republic?
Zoe: Living there brought a lot of happiness. I loved the beach, sunshine and being surrounded by family. I started dancing classical ballet, my sisters took on art and we all bloomed. But we also felt like outsiders and that was difficult.
-We stayed in the Dominican Republic for seven years and returned to New York where I finished high school.
Jessica: Why did you come back to NY?
Zoe: My mother always knew that we would return. She wanted to give us more opportunities and bring us back to a place where we could feel at home.
-Now that I’m older, I appreciate the gift that my mother gave us: the ability to feel that we were 200% Global Citizens - 100% Latinos and 100% Americans. Growing up, we wondered: do we belong to this world or that world? As adults, we made the choice to belong to both worlds because we cannot live without the other.
Jessica: You mentioned that you studied ballet as a child. When did acting come into play?
Zoe: As a dancer, I used my body to share emotions.
-I was on stage with actors who communicated with their voices and realized that something was missing.
-After high school, I took a year off, stopped dancing and started auditioning for plays and musicals. I joined a theater troupe, got my feet wet with acting and realized how happy it made me. I am outgoing and talk a lot. So getting to use my main instrument, voice, was important for me. I was able to unleash who I was.
-I got a manager, started doing commercials and booked an episode of “Law and Order.”
-At that point, I wondered: do I return to ballet or keep pushing into this unknown world and see what happens?
-Then I booked a movie called “Center Stage.” I played a classical dancer and took it as a strong sign. I gave up classical ballet and threw myself wholeheartedly to acting!
Jessica: What’s your favorite type of movie to act in?
Zoe: I love action! As a child, I was always driven to action and science fiction. Maybe it was my subconscious tapping into my natural yearning for freedom. Let me explain:
-I kept being rejected from roles because of things that I couldn’t change, like being a woman or a woman of color.
-Casting agents would say: we want traditional. I’d wonder: Well, what is traditional? You mean that I’m not traditional? The response was usually that traditional is anything that originates from Europe.
-I don’t think that that’s fair and have been fighting to bring down barriers and play roles that are unconventional for someone like me. Acting in space films gives me the freedom to portray the kind of woman that I feel like I am.
-After these casting experiences, I knew that I needed to do something to broaden the narrative in America. Media wasn’t showing anyone who reminded me of me! I realized that the distance that lies between us and a neighbor has everything to do with the lack of information being provided through mainstream media.
-So I thought, instead of complaining, let’s create a solution! Let's build a platform where we have content that resembles and reflects the America that I’ve known my whole life so that we can begin to have conversations about who we really are today in America!
-I feel very proud of my journey. I embrace my faults but won’t embrace my limitations because they weren’t designed by me.
-I love myself, where I come from, where I was born and my country. Because of this love, I want to change and reshape the narrative. This is what compelled me to build BESE (pronounced BEE-SEH.)
Jessica: So let’s talk about this new company! What is BESE and what does it mean?
Zoe: The name is in two languages: English and Spanish. My husband and I chose the name because to ‘be’ is the most powerful verb that we find in life. In Spanish, ‘SEH’ also means to ‘be.’
-We are a digital platform for Millennials.
-We are starting with the Latinx community because it’s the most underrepresented and marginalized demographic according to its size and growth, despite being a key driver of our economy and society. These Latinx millennials have been largely underserved by present day media.
-Then, the goal is to represent all kinds of American faces living in America today.
Jessica: When you go the website, what can people expect to find?
Zoe: We will be telling the untold stories that reflect what America looks like today.
-We will be creating English language premium content in three formats: video, podcast and editorial and distributing them across social media channels and on bese.com.
-Our initial content will focus on identity, culture and nation. It will have a positive and solution-oriented approach to storytelling and exploration of issues that are being talked about every day across our nation.
-We want to highlight the role models that have been and are here and to bring much needed inspiration to Latinx and all communities so that they may aspire to greater heights.
Jessica: Tell us about BESE’s live events:
Zoe: We’re going to have pop-up events!
-Power is found in community and times when we stand next to and have conversations with each other.
-We'll invite figures from all respective fields of identity, nation and culture to share their knowledge, experiences and stories to give each other the energy and inspiration that we all need to keep succeeding and aspiring to greater heights.
Jessica: Of all that you’re planning for BESE, what are you most excited about?
Zoe: My dream is to see my country moving in the right direction when it comes to how we view each other. When it comes to how we stand together and support each other and other nations.
-I am a person who lives on hope.
-I am so proud of all that we’ve accomplished as a nation and know that we can do so much more if we continue to reach out and remain curious about who our neighbors are.
-Fear is paralyzing and only creates distance from people, our communities and our country. Love and curiosity keep us united. Inclusivity is important!
-Last year, we witnessed what happened when women came together, reached out to one another and said: Enough is enough! Let’s stand together and bring change through education and by improving codes of conduct so that women can feel safer in their communities, at work and in the world.
-For the first time in my life, I saw something tangible that can be done, that is being done!, so that’s encouraging!
-By building a platform like BESE with positive and solution-oriented messages, we're giving the community tools that they can build on!
Jessica: As our country faces troubling times and works towards the change that you hope to see, what is your advice for our Millennial and BESE generations?
Zoe: To quote the Beatles: "All we need is love!"
-Love compels us to stay connected, reach out, listen and speak up. Love compels us to build and rebuild ourselves.
-Lately, hate has become accessible and trendy because social media lets us instantaneously share our thoughts with the world. Just because something comes to mind doesn’t always mean that we should immediately share it.
-We must be aware of our power through social media. Everything that we say will either be an inspiration, weapon, or tool.
-The messaging that we send out should be of love, peace and justice.
-Because of love, we should always do something. Always something for a positive outcome or resolution and never for a demise of anything that in the end may cause our demise.
Jessica: That’s beautiful. Since you’re such a successful actress, I also have to ask about your advice for aspiring performers.
-I believe that for aspiring performers, it’s not just about having the desire to be an artist, it’s also the constant study and dedication to your craft. That takes work, practice, concentration, focus and attention. That comes with education.
-Education doesn’t have to come from an academic place. All the people who have been doing art before us are also historians. They document their art in the most neutral and pure ways. That's how you master a technique and that’s beautiful.
-Also, I encourage people to not just say: I want to act. I want to make it. So here I am and let’s do it. I ask: "Do what? Figure out your what, where, how and why, and define that IT for you.
-The word IT can mean so many things. Once you have a clear vision of IT, you can decide what’s next for you!
-Have constant leaps of faith and throw yourself at the things that you want to do. Do not be discouraged by rejection! Keep going!
Find & Follow:
Facebook: @ZoeSaldana, @BESE, @JessLipps
Instagram: @ZoeSaldana, @BESE, @Jess_Lipps
Twitter: @ZoeSaldana, @BESEOfficial @JessLipps