What You Don't Know About Zoe Saldaña

Zoe Saldaña is a vivacious fixture of the big-budget action epic scene. The New Jersey-born actor, who was partly raised in the Dominican Republic, shot to fame in the early 2000s when she co-starred alongside Britney Spears in "Crossroads." And, of course, she's popped up in numerous sci-fi flicks, such as "Star Trek," "Avatar," and Marvel Cinematic Universe's "Guardians of the Galaxy." 

While Saldaña's found a great deal of success in this highly competitive line of work, as far as she's concerned, acting is more than just a job. As she told Entertainment Weekly in 2022, "When you put your heart into it and you put your focus into it, it's an extension of your life. It's like eating, like walking, like breathing." Lucrative breathing, at that: According to Celebrity Net Worth, her net worth sits at $35 million, a figure that has afforded her a luxurious life including, as Architectural Digest reported in 2016, an $8.7 million Beverly Hills mansion. 

Of course, there is so much more to her story than her impressive net worth. Here's what you may not know about Zoe Saldaña.

Her early years in acting were nerve-racking

Zoe Saldaña got her start in Hollywood with two episodes of "Law & Order," and would go on appear in the dance flick "Center Stage" as Eva Rodriguez, as well as "Get Over It," a teen comedy loosely based on William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." While the former developed a cult following, neither film was exactly a box office hit out the gate. But then, a movie starring one of the biggest pop stars in recent history came along, and though it wasn't the biggest smash of all time, it definitely got people in seats. We are, but of course, talking about 2002's "Crossroads," where Saldaña acted opposite Britney Spears. 

In response to a Screen Rant question about what she might tell her younger self way back when she was work on "Crossroads," Saldaña said, "Don't be so nervous." She went on to share that the big-time productions put her on edge for a while. "I remember at that time, like, I was just so nervous because, you know, I was getting to do these projects for the very first time and I was getting to travel to these places for the very first time, so there was a lot of nervousness that I felt," she said. Regardless of her internal struggles, Saldaña maintained a poised demeanor on the outside that made her look like she belonged.

A former manager asked her to change her name

Early in her career, nervousness seemed not to be Zoe Saldaña's only worry. Her manager played a part in fueling her insecurity further, and it came down to something that she could change but did not want to change. "When I did 'Center Stage,' I remember being discouraged by my management at that time to use my name," Saldaña disclosed in a conversation with Entertainment Weekly's Bold School. "That was her doing the best that she wanted for me, but I still knew that I liked my name."

Saldaña ultimately stuck with her birth name, though the tilde over the n in her surname was dropped when she was young. "My kindergarten teacher, I remember, said you're not Saldaña, that letter doesn't exist and so we can't pronounce that," she told Reuters. Netflix series "Maya and the Three," which dropped in 2021, was the first major release where the tilde appeared over the n in her last name. "I want to see my name how it's written on my birth certificate and so it feels really good," she said.

Zoe Saldaña regrets playing Nina Simone

In 2016, Zoe Saldaña co-starred alongside David Oyelowo in the Nina Simone biographical film, "Nina." Saldaña's transformation into the revered singer-songwriter wasn't welcome with open arms. In addition to wearing a prosthetic nose, she had to shade her skin darker. This was met with heavy criticism from fellow actors and reviewers. "The first sign of the filmmakers' suffocating arrogance is that they think you'll believe that this walking pile of brown paint and prosthetics is music legend Nina Simone," wrote film critic Odie Henderson.

Similarly, Nina Simone's daughter Simone Kelly took to her mother's Facebook page (via BBC) to voice that, despite being a fan of Saldaña, the casting department made a colossal misstep. "But not every project is for everybody. And I know what my mother would think. I just don't get it," wrote Kelly.

Although Saldaña had told Time she would take the role again if given a second chance, she later changed her mind. "I should have never played Nina," she shared during a 2020 Instagram Live session with Steven Canals for Bese. "I should've tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman. ... I thought back then that I had the permission because I'm a Black woman." She apologized, noting how important it is to uphold Simone's legacy in every which way.

Yes, Zoe Saldaña does do stunts

On the red carpet, Zoe Saldaña is all sorts of amazing, always glammed up and flashing her infectious smile. She embodies grace, glitz, unwavering poise, and elegance — traits that are in many ways far from some of the action movie characters she plays.

On the silver screen, Saldaña is likely to be fierce and feisty, with unmatched combat prowess that gives male characters a run for their money, as in "Colombiana." The work that goes into making her action-packed films is just as relentless. She's even tried her hand at performing some of her stunts, which is not the norm for A-list stars. As "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn tweeted in 2021, "Despite what some actors claim, I've never heard of an actor who does all their own stunts. ... That said, @zoesaldana does do way more than most — wire gags & fighting most can't or won't do."

The upside of Saldaña's adrenaline-driven lifestyle is that she gets to maintain good health. When the pandemic struck in 2020, she hit pause with the rest of the world, but couldn't wait to get back to the rigorous physical training that can come with her line of work. As she told Screen Rant, "I am going back because I don't ever want to hear my hips cracking this way ever."

She talks to herself on the makeup chair

In the "Guardians of the Galaxy" flicks and the "Avengers" series, Zoe Saldaña plays Gamora, an alien assassin. Saldaña revealed through an interview with As the Bunny Hops that transforming into Gamora means spending around four hours parked in a makeup chair. In a fan Q&A for Wired, she shared, "It's an arduous process. It starts at 3:30 in the morning where I hate the world. Then, I work for a director that likes to shoot for sixteen hours straight." 

Since four hours is a long time to be in a single position, Saldaña tries to make the most out of her makeup sessions. As she told As the Bunny Hops, sometimes that means FaceTiming with loved ones, other times that means just having a one-on-one conversation with herself. "You guys, I talk to myself. I talk in every language," she shared. Understandably, this call time doesn't exactly leave her feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed — but her lack of sleep apparently doesn't impact her work. As co-star Chris Pratt told Backstage OL, "I never get to see that grumpy part. You just show up and you're ready to rock and roll."

A clip of Avatar 2 left her emotional

"Avatar" made headlines in 2010 when, as The New York Times reported at the time, it became the highest-grossing movie of all time. It was also the fastest film to generate $1 billion, per Independent. The first sequel to the James Cameron smash is set for release on December 16, 2022. In April 2022, Saldaña, who plays Princess Neytiri, revealed to "Extra" that she still hadn't watched the trailer for "Avatar 2." However, she did receive a heads-up from Cameron that, for the best experience, it was wise to watch it on the biggest screen she could find.

Now, that's not to say Saldaña had not yet seen any "Avatar 2" footage. In a March 2022 interview with Kevin McCarthy TV, she made it clear that she wasn't as behind the curve as one might think based on that chat with "Extra." "I was able to see just 20 minutes of the second installment right before the year ended last year, and I was speechless. I was moved to tears," she said. 

Zoe Saldaña prefers to live a private life

Of everything that comes with celebrity culture — money, prestige, fast cars, freebies — Zoe Saldaña sure is not a fan of invasion of privacy. Celebrities have sued the paparazzi for going too far, while others simply use camouflage to be able to run normal errands. Saldaña, who worked with Britney Spears when we were in the thick of relentless paparazzi culture, doesn't take her personal life for granted. "I've mostly been able to feel like I can keep my privacy and keep some type of normalcy," she said in a 2013 interview for the Star Trek website.

Chatting with New York Daily News in 2014, Saldaña pushed back against anyone who might be under the impression that all areas of her life are up for public consumption simply because she is a public figure. "I have the right to my own privacy as much as anybody," she said. As her career continues to grow, keeping the public eye at bay only gets more difficult, but she's stuck to it. After she and husband Marco Perego welcomed their third child in 2017, she told E! News, "We walk a very balanced line with the kind of things that we like to share publicly of our lives and what we must preserve."

Paris is one of her 'top cities in the world'

When it comes to travel, Zoe Saldaña is quite the seasoned jet-setter. As she told Forbes in 2017, she really enjoyed the time she'd spent in Japan, China, Thailand, and South Korea, and she would like to visit other countries in Asia. Some of her other favorite vacation destinations that made the list include South Africa, the Caribbean, Italy, and Ireland. Oh, and let us not forget about the City of Lights. 

"Paris, always and forever. I first went there in my mid 20s, and after all these years, it's still one of my top cities in the world. It was weird: as soon as I arrived, it was like I had been living there my whole life," Saldaña said in an interview with Condé Nast Traveller. As for the best views in Paris, Saldaña shared that nothing was as romantic as a hotel overlooking the Seine river. C'est magnifique.

She's not opposed to breast augmentation

Zoe Saldaña embraces femininity. The actor encourages women to appreciate their breasts at every chance they get and feel sexy about it. "Just be proud of them, like, just show them. Go up and down the stairs without a bra and just let them hang," she once said in a chat with Amanda de Cadenet. In a 2014 issue of Lucky Magazine (via PopSugar), Zaldaña called out any man who might be critical of the shape or size of a person's breasts, noting that it's a red flag when a guy pick's apart a woman's appearance. 

What's more, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor is all for anyone who chooses to undergo breast augmentation, telling de Cadenet that she hasn't ruled out the procedure for herself. "The same way an old man who's having a midlife crisis can buy a Porsche ... I can buy myself a pair," she said. All that matters, as far as Saldaña is concerned, is that the procedure makes the person who goes under the knife feel good. 

Zoe Saldaña sticks to a gluten-free diet

Zoe Saldaña owes her physique to working out regularly and following a set diet. As she shared with Cosmopolitan, outside of her action-packed job, she stays active by hitting the gym, going on walks, dancing, and doing Pilates. And in an interview with Mama's Geeky, she explained that, with the support of her husband, she sticks to a nutritious diet — even when she's going to an event where the menu might not line up with her regular eating habits. She told the outlet that she'll eat something before she goes in order to avoid potentially less healthy foods.

Saldaña also makes a point to steer clear of gluten most of the time. "We're 80% gluten-free," she said in Mama's Geeky. This choice, she said, is partially influenced by her Hashimoto's diagnosis — which, according to some studies, may be linked to gluten intolerance — as well as a desire to keep her family healthy. "It's about fixing hormone levels — getting blood panels once a year after we become mothers — because we're having very lethal reactions to gluten more and more. Our children are being born with celiac and I don't know if there's a correlation but I read everything," said Saldaña.

Her own mom confuses her for Thandiwe Newton

Of celebrity pairs that can't be told apart, the list may be even longer than you realize: Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel, Demi Moore and Jennifer Connelly, Margot Robbie and Jaime Pressly — we could do this all day. Yes, Zoe Saldaña has her own industry doppelgänger: English actor Thandiwe Newton. In a 2019 Wired Q&A, Saldaña said of the comparisons, "There's a woman. Her name is Thandie Newton. And I believe that we've been confused for each other." (At the time of the interview, Newton was using the anglicized spelling of her first name.) Saldaña's own kin has even been thrown off. "My mom still thinks that I'm in 'Westworld,'" Saldaña said on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" that same year. "Mom, you did not give birth to Thandie Newton."

On a 2018 episode of "The Graham Norton Show," Newton recalled a time Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, who she'd interacted with a number of times before, mistook her for Saldaña. "She was absolutely mortified," Newton shared. "Obviously, Zoe Saldaña is an absolute rare beauty, but up close, come on. I'm English." Zig-a-zig-oops.

She has many hidden tattoos

On a 2014 episode of "The Late Show with David Letterman" (via Daily News), Zoe Saldaña revealed that she has close to ten tattoos. The "Death at a Funeral" actor went on to share that she's made a point to get them in places where they couldn't be seen, including the Hebrew word for "heal," scribbled on her torso. And as she told ET, she and her husband, Marco Perego, have one another's faces inked to their bodies. 

Of their his and hers face tats, Saldaña said on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" (via Refinery 29), "We're those kind of people. Oh, come on, be happy for us. He's had my face on his arm, so it's only fair." Saldaña's love for tattoos goes beyond her husband. As she told Letterman, whenever she gets the opportunity, she'll try to talk her nearest and dearest into getting body art, too.

Zoe Saldaña wasn't sure about her husband at first

Zoe Saldaña made a pact that she would never get married. In June 2013, she broke that promise when she wed former soccer player Marco Perego. And when they got hitched, Perego went the less conventional route and took Saldaña's name. She told InStyle (via People) that she worried how his name change would be received by the public as well as his peers, but he did not let any hypothetical criticism impact his decision.

Before she got a chance to know Perego, Saldaña assumed Perego wasn't who she was looking for in a partner. "I kept meeting him at all these parties and I always kept running in the opposite direction 'cause he just looked like the biggest player in the room," she said in an interview with Wired. "Turns out, he was the nicest man I've ever met." While she might've been reluctant to strike something up, that's not to say she wasn't interested from moment one. In a story that sounds straight out of a rom-com, she fell for him the second she saw him while they were both soaring through the clouds. "I just saw him from behind. It was 6:30 in the morning, I was on a flight to New York. And I can't even describe to you, it was a vibration," she recounted to USA Today

Saldaña and Perego are the proud parents to three sons. Speaking of parenting...

Raising twins isn't a walk in the park

Juggling a career like Zoe Saldaña's is hectic. Having three children does not make it any easier, but somehow she's managed to navigate motherhood and bring her A-game to the set. "As a working mother, there's a lot of guilt that comes with leaving your kids. I'm not superhuman in real life," Saldaña said in an interview with Harper's Bazaar. Saldaña and Marco Perego welcomed twin boys in 2014, and their third son in 2017. 

During a 2015 appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Saldaña advised the host against having two boys at the same age. "It's a blessing, we know, 'cause people keep telling us," she joked. A lot of work goes into raising one baby, and with multiples? Well, the work multiplies. "You put one to sleep and you lay him down, and the other one has been asleep but then that one wakes up and the other one wakes up, so then everybody is crying, and my husband and I are crying," she said.

All kidding aside, Saldaña loves being a mom to three boys — even if the household dynamic took some getting used to. "I come from a family of women, so being sort of outnumbered is new, strange, and I'm adjusting to it," she said on a 2017 episode of "Good Morning America." Motherhood is a gift that keeps on giving, much like the craft Saldaña so much adores.