Zendaya Talks ‘Challengers,’ Talks to Serena Williams, and Considers Her Future (2024)

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By Marley MariusPhotography by Annie LeibovitzStyled by Law Roach

Zendaya Talks ‘Challengers,’ Talks to Serena Williams, and Considers Her Future (4)

COVER LOOK
Zendaya wears a Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda dress. Bulgari ring.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, May 2024.

It’s an amazing, almost inspiring thing, what happens when Zendaya gets in front of a camera.

Before visiting the set of her British Vogue cover shoot in late January, I imagined her regarding the whole ordeal with gracious indifference. (The model in my mind was Ingrid Bergman at the 1975 Academy Awards, dryly telling the audience after her third career win that it was “always very nice to get an Oscar.”) Zendaya has, after all, been working in Hollywood since she was 13; she’s served as an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Tommy Hilfiger, Bulgari, and Lancôme; and, at 27, she’s already won the Emmy for best lead actress in a drama twice. Surely, posing for a magazine would be, dare I say it, kind of boring to her by now? (Actually, two magazines: This month, she becomes one of the rare stars to cover British Vogue and Vogue US simultaneously—with two separate shoots and covers, by Carlijn Jacobs and Annie Leibovitz, respectively.)

But at a nondescript studio space in Aubervilliers, a northern suburb of Paris, what I discover instead is a woman possessed. Endlessly leaping and twirling in youthful silhouettes from Vuitton, Erdem, Marni, and Wales Bonner, Zendaya is, as they say, giving: face, movement, angles, legs. (Five foot ten in bare feet, she gets them from her mother, who stands a staggering six foot four.) From moment to moment, she morphs into Veruschka, Twiggy, Naomi, Linda. She even has Linda’s hair: After appearing that morning in micro-bangs and pin-straight lengths for Schiaparelli’s spring 2024 haute couture show at the Petit Palais, she now sports a swishy little pageboy cut. The cries of approval—from Jacobs; from Zendaya’s stylist (or “image architect,” as he would have it), Law Roach; from her assistant–​slash–hype man, Darnell (“You look beautiful!”)—are breathless, in part because they can barely keep up.

The scene is mesmerizing, total magic…but it all seems pretty exhausting too. This is work, full stop. Pausing to cool down, she intently reviews her results, scrolling through Jacobs’s images on a monitor. (Roach, hovering nearby in a bedazzled tracksuit, waist-length braids, and a cream knit cap, leans over to confer with her, while Darnell—tall and finely groomed, with big white teeth and thin, twisting locs—manages the playlist, bobbing along to “Hey Ya!” by OutKast.) At these junctures, Zendaya could be a scientist scrutinizing slides in a lab: Variously identifying some strange shape she’d made with her neck, or determining that her hair should flip this way rather than that, she is dutiful, present, utterly precise. A pro, in other words.

Truthfully, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Zendaya had warned me about this, the kind of creature she turns into when she’s having her picture taken. The day before the shoot, I am led by her friendly security guy, Paul, into a sprawling hotel suite high above the Place de la Concorde, dampened that morning by freezing rain. I settle in a room where, from a small terrace, the Dôme des Invalides and the Eiffel Tower are plainly visible to the south and southwest. Casting an eye for personal effects, I find nothing, only a balled-up plastic bag in one of the matching armchairs.

ON A CLOUD
Zendaya wears a custom dress, veil, necklace, and bouquet from Schiaparelli Haute Couture, designed by Daniel Roseberry. Fashion Editor: Law Roach.


When, after 10 minutes or so, Zendaya sidles in to meet me, Darnell trailing behind her, she cuts a fairly different figure from the whirling dervish in Aubervilliers. Fresh-faced, with her naturally curly hair—then an auburn-brown color—pulled back, she’s dressed in a dove gray cashmere pullover, pleated black trousers, black socks, and brown slippers, a yellow silk scarf slung about her neck and a silver watch hanging from her wrist. This is “Z” off-duty: cozy, quiet, immediately disarming. (She greets me, sweetly, with a hug.) Also jet-lagged—she’d arrived in Paris late the night before and been in fittingsallday.

“She’s a different being that comes into me—my own Sasha Fierce,” she explains, referring to the alter ego famously assumed by one Beyoncé Knowles. (On set, she will briefly break her focus to trill along to “Heated” from Renaissance: “Yadda, yadda, yadda, bom, bom, kah, kah!”) “She takes over and she does the carpet.” The clothes, of course, play a role: For Zendaya, shoots and red carpets are like movie or television sets, in that they all demand commitment to a character. “I have to buy her,” she says. “I have to buy that this woman exists, or that this fantasy exists.”

The next month, on the globe-​spanning press tour for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two, that fantasy takes the form of a midriff-baring alien superstar, whether she’s in a Barbarella-​worthy vintage chrome-and-plexiglass bodysuit from Thierry Mugler (for the premiere in London), a marvelously draped and knotted top and floor-length skirt by the ascendant young designer Torishéju Dumi (for a photo-call in Mexico City), or a long-sleeve Stéphane Rolland dress with a cutout stretching practically from her sternum to her kneecaps (for the premiere in New York). January’s Schiaparelli couture show couldn’t have been a more fitting precursor. (There, Zendaya donned a silk crepe turtleneck with knotted silk “spikes” and a silk faille column skirt—an E.T.–meets–War Horse situation that managed to look devastatingly cool.)

“What she allows me to do is to come up with the big story, the big idea, and she takes that and she whittles it down a bit,” Roach says when I reach him at home in Los Angeles. He and Zendaya have worked this way since she was 14 and promoting Shake It Up, the Disney Channel series that launched her career in 2010. She’d been switched on to the power of playing dress-up early: During childhood summers when her mother, Claire Stoermer, picked up extra work as house manager of the California Shakespeare Theater, in Orinda, a seven- or eight-year-old Zendaya, who was raised in nearby Oakland, would watch the performances from the back of the house, burrito and Snapple in hand. Keen to allay her worrying shyness, Zendaya’s parents, both teachers, soon had her in acting classes, learning scenes from As You Like It and Richard III. (She also joined a hip-hop dance group, Future Shock Oakland, the very cute proof of which is still on YouTube.) Regional productions of Caroline, or Change and Once on This Island followed.

BACK TO IT
“Something about her felt very, Oh, damn,” Zendaya says of Tashi in Challengers, which opens in theaters on April 26th. “I was kind of scared of her.” Giambattista Valli Haute Couture dress.


By the time that she moved with her dad, Kazembe Ajamu Coleman, to Los Angeles for the Disney job, Zendaya knew what character, drama, and costume could do. Similarly, getting done up for a step-and-repeat “gave her this real confidence, like, Okay, let me put it all on and go out there and give this to the world, and then let me come home and take it all off and become myself again,” Roach says. “It’s so funny. People were like, ‘Oh, she’s so fierce.’ And, yeah, she is, on the inside. But she’d rather be at home, with her hair down and no makeup, with Noon, her dog, watching a movie, probably Harry Potter.” Zendaya doesn’t go much for partying. When she was in her early 20s and Roach would try to get her to go out—“I’m like, ‘Go crazy! This is the time you’re supposed to be in college!’ ”—he’d be swiftly rebuffed. “She’d be like, ‘If you don’t sit down and be quiet…’ ” he remembers with a laugh. “The funny thing about that little girl is that she has always been the same person.”

Nevertheless, as well-practiced as she is, Zendaya still finds it hard, turning on. “It is one of those things that I’m like, Oh, sh*t, I haven’t done this in a second,” she says of the shows and shoots on her schedule in Paris. The stakes have also changed in recent years: Somewhere between the first and second seasons of Euphoria, the HBO drama that won her those two Emmys, and the three Spider-Man movies she’s made with Tom Holland, her boyfriend of a few years, she became Zendaya—and in the public imagination, if there’s one thing Zendaya does, it’s turn a look. (Needless to say, when she was announced in February as a co-chair of this year’s Met Gala, along with Bad Bunny, Chris Hemsworth, and Jennifer Lopez, the response online was, in a word, feral.)

“When I was younger there was less pressure,” she says. But now, while she’s in town for the couture—and can’t exit a building without trending on X—Zendaya has little choice but to become that girl again. “I got to get into a zone of being that part of myself, which is definitely not a thousand percent natural,” she allows. “She gets rusty.”

To her 184 million–odd admirers—if Instagram is anything to go by—one of Zendaya’s greatest gifts is to seem both improbably perfect (so tall, so poised, so plugged into all the right things, from racial justice to voting rights) and somehow familiar, like the girl everyone got along with in high school. “I still have to sometimes try to not fangirl when I’m around her,” says the 20-year-old actor Storm Reid, who plays her younger sister on Euphoria. The two first met over a decade ago, at a Ben & Jerry’s in Los Angeles, where Reid—then about nine—timidly asked for a picture. Within a few years they’d be singing Beyoncé songs together in Zendaya’s trailer. “She’s still one of my biggest inspirations, and I think she’s just so incredibly talented.”

Zendaya has channeled that alluring, unknowable, It-girl-next-door thing into a knack for playing good people with secrets: a teenage spy in K.C. Undercover; the charming but manipulative addict Rue in Euphoria; the acerbic introvert Michelle, a.k.a. MJ, in Spider-Man: Homecoming. (When she first auditioned for the latter part, in about 2016, “to be honest with you, neither Kevin Feige nor I knew who she was,” says Amy Pascal, who has, with Feige, produced all of Zendaya’s Spider-Man films. “She was wearing no makeup and she was just dressed like a regular girl, and we were like, ‘Oh my God, she’s amazing. She has to be in the movie.’ And then we found out she was a totally famous person, and felt really stupid.”) She’s also been a sylphlike acrobat—​introduced with the words “Who’s that?”—in The Greatest Showman, and, as Chani in Dune, a shimmering desert mirage turned love interest–​slash–​mentor–​slash–​skeptic of Timothée Chalamet’s messianic Paul Atreides.

But Zendaya’s character in Challengers—the long-anticipated sports drama from director Luca Guadagnino and writer Justin Kuritzkes, postponed from a fall 2023 release to this April by the SAG-AFTRA strike—is a different story. Tashi Duncan is very, very clear about who she is: As a teen, she’s a tennis star with the world on a string (read: a junior title, a cushy sponsorship deal, and a spot at Stanford); then, after a career-​ending injury, she’s a fiercely competitive coach, angling to win her husband, Art Donaldson (Mike Faist), his first US Open. (Art himself is somewhat less committed to this goal.) But the spanner in the works is Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor), Art’s former best friend and Tashi’s ex-​boyfriend, whom they run up against at a would-be low-stakes qualifying tournament in New York. As Art and Patrick face off across the court, their contest is, evidently, as much about proving themselves to Tashi as advancing to the Open.

GO FOR MARIGOLD
Zendaya treated the rigorous tennis training for Challengers “like dance,” she says. Dior Haute Couture dress and shoes.


Sent Kuritzkes’s script by Pascal, Zendaya remembers finding it “really, really strong and a little crazy.” She was also just bowled over by Tashi. “Typically, I play the person that ultimately is easier to empathize with,” she says. Tashi—who delights in pitting lifelong friends against each other, and using sex to addle and maneuver them both—was decidedly not that. (The film’s second trailer is set to the song “Maneater” by Nelly Furtado.) “There was something about her that felt very, Oh, damn,” Zendaya adds. “Even I was kind of scared of her.”

Incredibly, excepting 2021’s Malcolm & Marie—the spare, moody Netflix two-hander she made during lockdown with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson and John David Washington—Challengers marks Zendaya’s first full-fledged, top-of-the-call-sheet, leading-lady turn in a movie. It also casts her, for once, as an actual adult: a mom, no less. Large swaths of the story are told in flashback, but at the match that serves as Challengers’ main framing device, Tashi, Art, and Patrick are all in their early 30s. Was that…weird for her? She’s been playing teenagers for about as long as she’s been working. “I’m always in a high school somewhere,” she says. “And, mind you, I never went to high school.” So, to break away from that “was refreshing. And it was also kind of scary, because I was like, I hope people buy me as my own age, or maybe a little bit older, because I have friends that have kids, or are having kids.”

She too would like to start a family one day—and is a doting aunt to her gaggle of younger nieces and nephews (she has five half siblings)—but Zendaya is, unmistakably, in no rush to get there. She recounts a recent conversation in which someone from a brand referred to an archival look as being 30 years old: “I was like, Wait, girl, this is from ’96. Ain’t no 30 years old just yet, okay? This is 27 years old. Wait a minute.

As a producer on Challengers, Zendaya was involved in everything, from hiring Guadagnino to scouting locations (they shot in Boston and New York). Guadagnino, known for heady romantic dramas like I Am Love and Call Me by Your Name, appealed to Zendaya as a master of atmospherics. “It’s the looks, it’s the glances, it’s the tension,” she says of his work. “I feel he creates that visceral environment.” (Does he ever: There’s a scene involving Art, Patrick, and two cinnamon-​sugar churros that, without being remotely indecent, could make your hair stand on end.) Guadagnino, for his part, “knew everything about her wonderful career,” he tells me in an email, “and I always admired her.”

Zendaya had her costars lined up in fairly short order: first O’Connor (“I was like, You know who would be great? The guy from The Crown”), then Faist, a revelation in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, whom Zendaya had seen on Broadway in Dear Evan Hansen years earlier. After that came the prep.

Despite her Amazonian figure, Zendaya is no athlete and insists that she only works out when she has to. What she knew about the world of tennis was “Serena and Venus—that’s all I connected to. And probably Roger Federer.” With input from Brad Gilbert (now Coco Gauff’s coach), Zendaya, Faist, and O’Connor trained together for several months, on three parallel courts in the mornings, then went to the gym, had lunch, and did rehearsals.

Learning the game was tough. “The first little while was getting the basics, trying to just hit the f*cking thing,” she says. “One day you’d be like, Oh, sh*t, I cracked it. I figured it out. I got it. Come back in the next day…” Poof, it was gone. Besides Gilbert, Zendaya also worked with Eric Taino, the former ATP Tour player who instructed the young actresses cast as Venus and Serena Williams in 2021’s King Richard.

WALL ART
Zendaya admits she can put too much pressure on herself. “Sometimes it’s a bit crippling.” Custom Louis Vuitton cape and dress.


The time helped to establish the complicated, three-part chemistry between her, O’Connor, and Faist. “It was my first big American studio movie, and she was really good at making both Mike and me feel at ease,” says O’Connor, who also stars this spring in Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera. She wanted them “to take the work seriously, but not take ourselves too seriously,” adds Faist. “I think it’s a real gift to be able to do what we do…and at times it’s very, very silly. I think she very much acknowledges the smoke and mirrors, and also the art form that it can be, and the complexities of all of it.”

Case in point: During tennis training, feeling that she was falling behind—Faist, for one, had played a little in high school, and it showed—Zendaya sussed out a different way. “I started treating it more like dance, like, Okay, it’s more copying mannerisms, copying footwork, whatever. So everything then became shadowing,” she explains. Her body double would hit a ball, and Zendaya would mimic her gestures—from the way she held her arms to the stutter in her step. At the end of the day, the job was to fake it, so fake it she did. “The ball comes in in post,” she says, “so why am I so stressed about hitting this ball, or this ball hitting me?”

The tactic worked. “I swear that after an hour’s session, she had it down,” O’Connor reports. “She looked like a pro. It was a real miracle.”

As Zendaya tells me this story, however—some 18 months after Challengers wrapped—a touch of irritation still edges her voice, what I peg as the low-grade humiliation of not quite nailing the thing. It seems a good moment to ask if she identifies with Tashi’s competitiveness.

She considers this. “I mean, listen, she takes the sh*t to a whole new level,” she says at last. “[But] I’d say, yeah, I’m competitive, in the sense that I want to work hard and I try to not be competitive with anyone else. I try to just be like, I already did that, okay, so now I got to do better.” In her words, “sometimes it’s a bit crippling,” the pressure she puts on herself.

“I guess where I was trying to empathize with my character—because it’s my job, even though I think she does some sh*t that I would absolutely never do—is in how nobody’s like, ‘Tashi, are you okay? What do you need?’ ” she continues. “She’s just always running sh*t, and nobody is taking any of that off of her shoulders.”

Everybody needs something from her, I suggest.

“Yeah,” Zendaya says. “She’s making all the decisions. She is doing all the stuff. So I imagine that she’s really just calling all the shots. She’s, like, everybody’s mom.”

Of course, the cost of Zendaya’s ever-​mounting influence and visibility has been her privacy, and the ability to lead anything resembling a normal life. As they began working, “I saw pretty quickly just how famous Z was,” Faist says. It was spring 2022, not long after season two of Euphoria had aired, and “she was like, Oh, I just can’t step out of my house. It really hit her how much her life had kind of changed.”

BLUE MOON
This May, Zendaya serves as a co-chair of the Met Gala. Jonathan Anderson, one of the evening’s honorary chairs, also created the costumes for Challengers. Loewe dress. Bulgari High Jewelry necklace.


ON HER TOES
She’s been studying directors and how they work in the hopes of “not being afraid, and trying to do it myself.” Fendi Couture dress.


Zendaya will later describe the same thing happening to Holland—who had started out in the West End, starring in Billy Elliot the Musical as a child—following the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017. “We were both very, very young, but my career was already kind of going, and his changed overnight. One day you’re a kid and you’re at the pub with your friends, and then the next day you’re Spider-Man,” she says. “I definitely watched his life kind of change in front of him. But he handled it really beautifully.” (This May, Holland returns to his theater roots in a new London production of Romeo & Juliet. Zendaya says she “could not be more proud. I’m going to try to see as many shows as I possibly can.”)

On the subject of Holland, she also recalls a trip to Paris in fall 2022, when the couple planned to visit the Louvre. Well, the powers that be didn’t really want them there: The feedback was, “It’s already busy. You might make it worse.” But they decided to go anyway—information that became impossible to escape that week on social media, as shots of the pair holding hands while they listened to a guide, or posing in front of the Mona Lisa, circulated far and wide. “It was actually fine,” Zendaya says now. “You just kind of get used to the fact that, Oh, I’m also one of these art pieces you’re going to take a picture of. I just gotta be totally cool with it and just live my life.” And, anyway, the fame thing sort of redeemed itself in the end: The museum let them linger after closing time. “It was one of the coolest experiences ever,” she says, her eyes flashing like a child’s. “It was like Night at the Museum.

Zendaya wrestles with how to exist in public—what to share, what to show up to, how to avoid it all becoming too overwhelming. At one point none of it felt like a choice: “I think growing up, I always felt like when someone asks for a picture, I have to do it, all the time. You have to say yes, because you need to be grateful that you’re here,” she says. “And while I still feel that way, I also have learned that I can say no, and I can say kindly that I’m having a day off, or I’m just trying to be to myself today, and I don’t actually have to perform all the time.”

It’s a matter of sustainability, how she can continue to make this business that she loves so dearly work for her. “Because I don’t necessarily want my kids to have to deal with this,” she says, long arms now wrapped around her knees. “And what does my future look like? Am I going to be a public-facing person forever?”

The dream scenario, to her mind, is being able to “make things and pop out when I need to pop out, and then have a safe and protected life with my family, and not be worried that if I’m not delivering something all the time, or not giving all the time, that everything’s going to go away. I think that’s always been a massive anxiety of mine: this idea that people will just be like, Actually, I know I’ve been with you since you were 14, but I’m over you now because you’re boring.”

It’s why she loves being on set so much—nowhere is she freer, safer, more focused and creatively engaged. And when she isn’t shooting, she’ll wander around with her handheld camera and observe scenes she isn’t in. She has dreams of becoming a filmmaker, so she pays close attention to the way things are storyboarded, how notes are delivered, how her directors rehearse and work with their crew—“picking things from different people and hopefully one day not being afraid, and trying to do it myself,” she says.

“If there is a person who could be a director without it being a vanity idea for herself, it is Zendaya,” Guadagnino contends. “She has such a vast curiosity towards the real that, combined with a rigorous discipline and a sort of scientific interest in the technique, I think she would be amazing at it.”

TULLE TIME
Dress from Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture by Simone Rocha.


I ask if she feels she has a peer group in Hollywood, people she can connect with about how strange their lives are. I am thinking, of course, of people like her Dune: Part Two castmates Chalamet, Austin Butler, and Florence Pugh, a who’s who of bright young things. Although, at 32, Butler is the elder statesman of the group, he, too, has Disney Channel roots. “A little bit,” she says. “I think there could be more. I don’t know. I keep to myself a lot, which is my own fault. But also, I love and I’m grateful for my peers, but I would love to see more who look a little bit more like me around me. I think that that is something that is crucial and necessary.” (Significantly, she counts Colman Domingo—who plays Rue’s grizzled Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Ali, in Euphoria—among her closest friends.) She has said in the past that when she begins directing, she’d like her stars to “always be Black women.”

This point, about community and representation, eventually brings us back to Serena Williams, who was inevitably on Zendaya’s mind as she worked on Challengers. A couple of months after wrapping, Zendaya flew to New York for the US Open, where she and her mother caught one of the final matches in Williams’s swan song season. What impresses her about the Williams sisters most? “f*cking all of it,” she thunders back. “The story, the amount of pressure, the microscope that they were under, the loneliness they must have felt—because it’s already lonely to be a tennis player, but to be a Black female tennis player, I can’t imagine.” The presence of a large and vocal crowd at major matches is another thing: The concept of live performance “absolutely terrifies” Zendaya, even as a former theater kid. “Like, we’re going to put you in a very stressful, anxiety-inducing situation where you have to compete and there are millions of people watching,” she says. “And you have to win…and be nice about it.”

About six weeks later she is repeating much of this to Williams directly. We’re on a Zoom with the tennis legend, proposed and organized by Zendaya herself. Logging on two minutes before the official start time, I was pleased (if a bit alarmed) to find both women already chatting away—Zendaya, in another neutral knit (this one oatmeal-​colored); Williams, in a black tank top and Nike Dri-Fit cap at her home in Florida. (As we’ll soon learn, she’s broken her “no calls after 3 p.m.” rule to fit Zendaya in.)

The ensuing conversation—one that I’d been prepared to lead but eventually felt like I was eavesdropping on—meanders from a close read of Challengers (Williams loved the performances; “hated” the ambiguity of the ending), to their pressure-​cooker childhoods and tortured relationships to social media. At one point, Williams bemoans Tashi’s decision to go to college instead of immediately turning pro. This makes me wonder: Both Williams and Zendaya began their careers so young. Did they ever worry about what they would do if things didn’t work out?

“That was my question as well for Z—if it’s okay for me to call you that,” Williams says. (It is, Zendaya indicates, very much okay.) “What was the other option for you? What were your goals growing up?”

Hmm. It’s funny,” Zendaya says, “because it’s something that I’m figuring out now. I don’t know how much of a choice I had. I have complicated feelings about kids and fame and being in the public eye, or being a child actor. We’ve seen a lot of cases of it being detrimental.… And I think only now, as an adult, am I starting to go, Oh, okay, wait a minute: I’ve only ever done what I’ve known, and this is all I’ve known. I’m almost going through my angsty teenager phase now, because I didn’t really have the time to do it before. I felt like I was thrust into a very adult position: I was becoming the breadwinner of my family very early, and there was a lot of role-​reversal happening, and just kind of becoming grown, really.” She’d felt that she needed to be “this perfect being, and be everything that everyone needs me to be, and live up to all these expectations.”

Inevitably, that tunnel vision cost her the pleasure of perspective. “Now, when I have these moments in my career—like, my first time leading a film that’s actually going to be in a theater—I feel like I shrink, and I can’t enjoy all the things that are happening to me, because I’m like this”—Zendaya balls up her fists. “I’m very tense, and I think that I carry that from being a kid and never really having an opportunity to just try sh*t. And I wish I went to school.”

Williams listens sympathetically. She, too, felt like she “had no other option” when she was younger—for more on this, see King Richard—and suffered through the itchiness of doing the same thing for a little too long. But then she began taking college courses, and went to design school, and launched Serena Ventures, her venture capital firm—and all while she was still playing tennis. As it turned out, the options were there; they always had been. She just had to find them on her own.

Williams asks more questions. How does going to school on a television set work? (To hear Zendaya tell it, only barely.) Does Zendaya find acting “healing”? (In a way.) Why has she mostly stopped using Instagram? (Because it was making her “very unhappy and anxious.”) Toward the end of the hour, Zendaya poses the billion-​dollar query of our post-​pandemic age. “How do you balance work, and life…”

Williams snorts with laughter. “Ask someone else.”

Zendaya laughs too. “…and family, and your own personal passions? Because that’s something I’m still really trying to.”

Ultimately, Williams’s answer is with people you trust to lighten your load—and with boundaries. (It’s worth noting that by now, the time is about 3:49 p.m.) Zendaya, a Virgo, is a little scandalized by the first idea (“I’m like, I just have to do it myself”), but she can understand its efficacy.

As the two women promise to exchange information and “hang out” someday in LA—“I’d love to pick your brain about life and business,” Zendaya says shyly. “I think I need more mentors and community and people around”—I wonder if I’m seeing the stirrings of a new phase for Zendaya. She’s been the precocious neophyte, the intriguing ingenue. Now that her star is shining more brightly than ever, how will she use its light?

In this story: hair, Kim Kimble; makeup, Raoúl Alejandre; tailor, Matthew Neff at Carol Ai Studio. Choreographic direction by (LA)HORDE - Marine Brutti, Jonathan Debrouwer, Arthur Harel.

The May issue featuring Zendaya is here. Subscribe to Vogue to secure your issue.

Marley Marius is a features editor at Vogue, where she covers film, theater, and art (among other things). She has been at the magazine since 2017.

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