It’s not often that you hear of someone coming down with strep throat during the summer months, but in the last week of August, Zoë Kravitz whispers coarsely into the phone the worst part of it all: “I had to sell my Burning Man ticket. It was really painful.” The six-time Burner concedes that the event isn’t what it once was. “It used to be kind of magical and now it feels exposed, like a fad.”
Instead, the 26-year-old actress and singer took her malady as an opportunity to schedule in some comparatively low-key family time; and when your dad is Lenny Kravitz, that means flying to Chicago to rendezvous on his current tour stop. Kravitz’s boyfriend (George Lewis Jr., aka Twin Shadow, a Dominican-American singer, producer and writer) has joined her for the weekend—just three weeks earlier, she performed there at Lollapalooza with her band, Lolawolf, and two years before that she took up residence in the Windy City while filming her breakout role in Divergent.
Tonight, though, she’s happy to be an observer. “I’ve seen my dad play so many times. It’s inspiring to see how well he does it, how tight his band is and how passionate he still is,” she says proudly.
Lolawolf is named after Kravitz’s 8-year-old half-sister (Lola Iolani Momoa) and 6-year-old half-brother (Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa) from her mother Lisa Bonet’s second marriage to actor Jason Momoa. It started as a jam session with friends Jimmy Giannopoulos and James Levy of the indie band Reputante while Kravitz was filming 2014’s The Road Within. Kravitz, who has struggled with eating disorders in the past, lost 20 pounds to play the role of Marie, an anorexic woman who tags along on a road trip with Robert Sheehan’s character, who has Tourette’s syndrome, and Dev Patel’s character, who suffers from OCD.
For her, music was a kind of therapeutic outlet from the intensity of the project; the trio recorded their first album, Calm Down, at Kravitz’s father’s house in the Bahamas in 2013 and over the course of the last year opened for Lily Allen, Miley Cyrus and, naturally, Twin Shadow. This month they are headlining at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, which will mark a full circle moment for Kravitz, who grew up in Topanga Canyon: “I always sang. I don’t really know when it started, but I remember putting on shows for my grandparents and making them watch me sing ‘Over the Rainbow’ and stuff like that. People who have known me my whole life say that I was always destined—or doomed, depending on how you look at it—to be in the entertainment industry.”
Perhaps no one was more acutely aware of this than her mother (also known as Lilakoi Moon), who grew up in San Francisco and became a household name playing Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show in the mid-1980s. “I don’t think she was necessarily ready for that role,” says Kravitz. “[When] she got that job, all of a sudden she was incredibly successful and famous. She [has always been] protective of me, and maybe I was a little bit irritated by it, but I appreciate the way she made me take my time.”
When she was 11, Kravitz moved to Miami at her mother’s encouragement to spend time with her father, who had recently released his hit single “Fly Away.” She began to realize her parents were different from other parents. “You couldn’t change the channel without hearing it,” she remembers. “I was like, OK, this is a thing.”
During her senior year of high school in New York, she landed her first role in the 2007 rom-com No Reservations and for the next few years steadily added supporting roles to her résumé, including a stint on Showtime’s Californication and a turn in X-Men: First Class. It was an early education into what it’s like to be a young biracial actress (a term that hardly scratches the surface of defining her background—she’s Russian Ashkenazi Jewish, African-American, Caribbean and American) in Hollywood. “My mom and I talk about it a lot,” Kravitz says. “I’m not auditioning for roles for white girls just to prove a point. I try to be color-blind and audition for roles that are for me and that I can relate to.”
This year, she starred as Nakia, the love interest in the gangster comedyDope, Christina in the Divergent sequel, Insurgent, and “Toast the Knowing,” an empowered damsel on the run in Mad Max: Fury Road. On the docket, there’s action thriller Vincent-N-Roxxy with Emile Hirsch, punk-inspired romantic drama Viena and the Fantomes, and two more films in The Divergent Series, Allegiant and Ascendant.
“I think there was a point when I resisted being categorized,” she reflects. “I got past that and started to really dig deeper and learn more about my roots. I identify as everything, and am proud and connected to the rich history that I come from.”
Much of Kravitz’s path to self-discovery has played out in her fashion choices—with favorite designers including Dior and Alexander Wang. “Fashion really inspires me and always has. It triggers all kinds of memories and ideas and associations. It’s just the biggest F.U. when you have confidence and you’re wearing something crazy.”
Her daily uniform is an urban-inspired study in black and white—revealing enough to show off some of her ink (including a cassette tape, a mermaid, an arrow and the words “Free at last,” an ode to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech). Her coiffure, these days, is lustrous, torso-grazing braids: “I originally did them as a joke, like an ode to the ’90s,” she says. “They aren’t some symbolic thing, but it still feels important, I think, to be a brown girl with natural hair. You see blond girls with the same hair in every movie.”
That’s the crux of Kravitz’s appeal: She’s not afraid of trying new things, but still maintains her core. As she explains about Lolawolf, “I have no idea what our next record will sound like. We’re very comfortable changing our sound based off what inspires us. I feel like we are still evolving.”