By José Hernández
May 30, 2018
You may have heard about Zoë Saldaña, especially if you are a fan of science fiction (sci-fi) movies like Avengers (2012) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), or perhaps Star Trek (2009). Maybe, like me, your first encounter with Saldaña was in the Avatar (2009) movie or perhaps it was in the action-packed Colombiana (2011). Whichever film it was, seeing Saldaña in Colombiana shaped my view of her as having Colombian ancestry—that is, until the moment I learned—maybe two or three years ago—that she actually carries sangre dominicana that she inherited from her father as well as Puerto Rican blood from her mother. Not only that, but she is proud of her background!
I felt compelled to follow Saldaña’s story because it was great to see an actress with whom I fell in love at first sight, someone who shares my ethnic background, on TV receiving a well-deserved Hollywood Walk of Fame Star on May 3. To what extent am I biased you might ask? Actually, I don’t feel the least bit biased toward Saldaña because of her dominicanidad. James Cameron and Ben Affleck among others, find that she deserves this star.
The 39-year-old movie star, mother, fashionista, and dancer has left her traces in various movies from Center Stage (2000), the film franchise Avatar, Colombiana, to the recent release of Avengers: Infinity War (2018). In Avengers, Saldaña plays the role of Gamora, the adopted daughter of the film’s antagonist—Thanos, a villain like no other. Other film franchise sequels are on the way for Avengers and Avatar. Saldaña’s humble beginnings can be traced back to her work with the Faces theater group in New York, which is geared to bring educational messages to teenagers. During her inspiring ceremony, Saldaña shared an emotional and inspiring life story.
During the ceremony, her smooth American English accent seamlessly transitioned into a familiar Spanish one as she named actors she saw twenty years ago on the Walk of Fame—a place on which she never thought she would get to see her name. Her “mil gracias” sounded as authentic as her “ay que linda!” to her abuelita—and no doubt, the same goes for her strong recognition of her Dominican heritage.
Saldaña’s message of encouragement is a testament of her hard work. As a Latina, she broke barriers maintaining her own identity. For one, it has not been a story without loneliness as a woman within a male-dominated industry, as she said, according to a Times magazine article last year. “As a young actor, she dreamed of getting roles like Aliens’ Ellen Ripley and Terminator’s Sarah Connor—lone female warriors” says Eliana Dockterman in the article of Zoë.
Saldaña has been able to film sci-fi movies where she plays roles not attached to common themes for women. Saldaña’s success story takes her from the Faces teen actors to Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek, and the recent Avengers: Infinity War.
Although her roles in sci-fi movies allow her to move into a realm where she plays out-of-the-box strong personality roles like Neytiri in Avatar, she has started her own company, Cinestar. In a YouTube video from Cinestar’s channel, Zoë shares that it is all about sharing “stories” and “create content where you feel celebrated, you feel seen, you feel educated, you are entertained!” In this video, Zoë is joined by her two sisters, who also say how this project is meant to bring awareness about women like them, since “we want the everyday women to be portrayed like the type of things we want to see out there” says Mariel Saldaña. After all, they are their own bosses and drive the content—unlike in Hollywood.
Part of her work both at Cinestar and life includes advocating for Latinos in the United States. During the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hype last year, Saldaña was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, where she said her goal is to help the “movement that is helping America understand and embrace that impact the Latino population is going to have in America in the next 40 years.” With her pride, determination, and outspoken style, she shows authenticity. Thus, she is sure to contribute more to this movement she speaks of advancing.