Zoe Saldaña States Gender Equality Fight in Hollywood Is ‘On Us’ And Inspires Women to Open Doors for Other Women

Recently, Zoe Saldaña emphasized the importance of women breaking barriers in the film industry and warned against complacency once they achieve success. Speaking at Kering’s Women in Motion program at the Cannes Film Festival, the “Avatar” star stressed the need for more women in leadership positions. “We need more female CEOs. We need more women sitting on boards. Because those are the gatekeepers,” she said. “Once those women are there, don’t just be happy and feel so lucky that you’re the only woman sitting at the table. Get three men to get up.”

As reported by Variety, Saldaña was reflective on her robust career, from her role in James Cameron’s “Avatar,” the highest grossing film of all time, to her recent performance in Jacques Audiard’s crime drama “Emilia Pérez.” She described her journey from a young girl from Queens, NY to a successful actress and spoke about her ongoing desire for artistic growth. “I opened every door that felt unlocked to me, walked in. But then here I am, like 10 years later, reaping the benefits over and over again of films that were so successful that became franchises, and it’s time-consuming. So it’s not that I don’t appreciate it. It’s just that I still want to grow as an artist.”

In a conversation with Variety’s Angelique Jackson, Saldaña discussed her struggles with anxiety and self-sabotage, noting, “I’m never satisfied. I’m really really hard on myself. Sometimes I can get in my own way.” She shared an example of overcoming her fears when accepting a role in Taylor Sheridan’s “Special Ops: Lioness.” “You have to follow good material wherever good material is. But it’s my fear because I know that [Sheridan] has big monologues with his characters. I’m dyslexic. Spanish is my first language. I saw ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water.’ Like, I love his work. So, I couldn’t pass.”


Saldaña was present at the Cannes Film Festival in France for the premiere of the Spanish-language musical “Emilia Pérez,” which received a nine-minute standing ovation. Reflecting on the film’s reception, she said, “To be here and you guys receiving it and people being deeply moved, I’m speechless. I just don’t know what to say because I just I love art so much, and when cinema is that fucking special and that fresh, it just moves you.”

While Saldaña has starred in major big-budget franchises like Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Star Trek,” she credits “Avatar” with transforming her career. “I went from being in small productions to being this princess from this foreign planet that reached the whole world. I was able to get meetings with producers and directors that I had never known, that I never thought I could ever meet. I was being offered roles I always thought I needed to fight for.” 

Saldaña rose by calling on men to support gender equality in the industry. “When women are in there, make more room for other women. That’s important. It’s on us to do it,” she said. “And for the men who are doing it right and making room for women, thank you. You’re so sexy!”