Conversations at the Top:
Zoe Talks

Quoted excerpts from Ruben Navarrette's interview with Zoe Saldana for our "Conversations at the Top" series.

Photo: Peter Yang

Actress, producer, activist, entrepreneur, and so much more, Zoe Saldana shares a wise-yet-fresh perspective on what it means to be an American in today’s sociopolitical society—and how she’s working to broaden the definition. 

Zoe Talks: Mainstream Culture

“Everywhere we go across our nation, we find Latino communities either in small regions or in big ones. And where are we when we turn on our TV? Or when we go to the museum? Or when we send our kids to school and they’re opening up history books, literature books that they’re given for the year to study, to read—where are we? Where are our playwrights, our writers, our authors?

Enough is enough. I don’t want to consume the general market if it’s not really reflective of my community. As an American, I should be considered. I should be a part of the general market.”

Zoe Saldana, founder, BESE, photo by Peter Yang
Photo: Peter Yang

Zoe Talks: Being American First

“I am American. I am American of Latin origin. If I walk into a place and I shake someone’s hand going, ‘Hi, I’m Latina,’ then I’m not adding to my American fabric. I’m basically excluding myself from the North American storytelling of our history and I’m saying, ‘No, no, no. I am of somewhere else, but I’m here.’ I’m not foreign born in my own nation. My parents are. I’m a proud first-generation Latin American, but I was born in Jersey. I’m a New Yorker before I am Latina.”

Zoe Talks: Activism

“I always look at my sons and I’m like: When they’re old enough to do research on their mom and be told who their mom is—or, in an even-farther future, who their mom was—I want them to be proud of the kind of approach that I took to activism.

And it’s not the one of running around with signs. I support my brothers and sisters that do that, but I’ve chosen to support more entrepreneurs and encourage and feed into the narrative of diversity in the boardroom, the leaders that are in corporate America that need to fill in those seats of my origin. I want to add to that conversation because there isn’t enough information about that in the media and there isn’t enough knowledge about that in media. And I want to uncover them, of past and present.”

Zoe Talks: Informed Voters

“It’s our American duty to vote. It’s our American duty to inform ourselves properly about all the policies that don’t favor minority groups. So when that information isn’t out there . . . I feel like right now—this is no exaggeration—sensationalism and negative portrayal of information takes a very emotional approach. It’s not pragmatic, it’s not informative.

So that we as an American public can make a good decision for ourselves, then those that have the ability to shed light on that information have a civil duty. It’s about shedding light on topics and on people that are either working for the majority of Americans or working against. And it’s about whether or not our American community—and specifically our Latin-American community—knows about this news, this information. When they have no idea of what’s really going on and how everything affects them, then obviously you can’t blame them for not voting or for voting for people that don’t really represent them and their best interests.”

Read the full feature on Zoe Saldana ⟶

RELATED: Zoe Saldana, 2019 Leading Latina ⟶

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