Zoe Saldana could easily spend her life waltzing down red carpets, clinking glasses of bubbly at fancy awards shows and acting in one blockbuster movie after another. (She does that last one anyway, with sequels to both The Avengers and Avatar in the works.) But her latest project, beginning March 1, is something different: a digital media company, BESE (“to be,” a combo of the English “be” and “se” in Spanish), which she created to better tell the stories of Americans — all Americans — today.
She didn’t get the memo that many a disgruntled commenter has written, basically that celebrities should stick to entertainment or whatever made them famous in the first place. Or, if she did, she just threw it away.
“My question is, why? When thanks to my career, I’ve managed to travel across my nation and live in states or communities or towns across my country where I would have never worked in any other field,” says Saldana, a New Jersey native whose parents and husband are immigrants. “I guess if you’re living on location, and I’m living in this location for a long period of time, I’m exposed to the community, I’m exposed to the American culture that is not just by race, or gender, it’s just American culture.”
“I’m inspired by that because I get to see how good Americans truly, truly are,” Saldana continues. “I want to help my country just broaden its narrative.”
The Guardians of the Galaxy star says BESE (pronounced “bee-say”) will focus on stories from underrepresented communities, “starting with the initial focus on the Latinx community, but obviously with the main objective of having that trickle down and representing millennials all through our nation.”
The company will source a lot of stories from its audience. Content, Saldana says, will be “much more positive and solution oriented, rather than sensational.”
The 39-year-old actress says she wants to provide the stories that mainstream media just isn’t sharing, because what’s reflected in the media has real-life consequences.
“I feel that fear can be very paralyzing and fear can only be cultivated out of ignorance — and ignorance means that you just don’t know any better. You don’t have information or education on something or someone, therefore, you create assumptions that are usually negative,” Saldana says. “I think that a way to add to a conversation in a sense that’s productive is by basically creating what’s not there. Mainstream media doesn’t really create content that best represents American faces, American millennials, Americans period today. So it is up to people that have the insight or have the ability or have the courage to do it. I want to have the courage to do it. That’s the way that I feel that I can give back, besides just doing movies and entertaining people and talking about fashion.”
Of course, Saldana, a global advocate for the United Nation’s Shot@life program to provide children worldwide access to vaccines, has more to discuss than that. She has a quick answer when asked whether she thinks Hollywood’s part in the #MeToo Movement will lead to lasting change.
“Yes, well, it opened our eyes as women to how much more we can accomplish ourselves and for each other when we stick together,” Saldana says.
People do better when they know better, she adds. Emphasis on the “know.”
“Now that we’re all standing together, basically saying, ‘We would like you to stretch, we would like you to create more space for women, we would like you to invest more in women, we would like you to create better codes of conduct in the workforce and schools and our communities, so that women learn to feel safe and they also have ample opportunity to grow as equals,” Saldana says. “What’s happening now with males is that they’re finally getting that information to them, and they’re going, ‘Oh yeah, of course, thank you. I had no idea that that’s how you felt. Thank you for sharing.’ So I don’t think it’s a thing that will go away … it’s not a trend. It’s not a fashion trend or like a negative soundbite that’s trending on the internet.”
In fact, the mother of sons Zen, 1, and 3-year-old twins Cy and Bowie, believes it’s much more.
“I think it’s a renaissance,” Saldana says. “And it’s a great movement that women are not going to allow anybody to forget. Our children depend and young women depend on us continuing this path to bring change.”
Just don’t expect it in the form of a political campaign, at least not one on Saldana’s behalf. She insists she prefers “staying away from politics.”
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