“My dad raised me in an old-school way. His mom was from the Bahamas, and it was about manners and making the bed. It’s that old black shit, really—like, you get smacked if you talk the wrong way. It was about having respect for your elders and being thankful for what we had. He wanted to make sure I had chores, and not because we didn’t have a housekeeper, but because of the principle of the thing. When I was about 11, my dad was trying to make me finish my dinner, but I didn’t want any more. He said, ‘There are starving kids in Africa.’ So I took an envelope and put potatoes in it and was like, ‘Send it to them.’ He was like, ‘You go upstairs right now!’ I was dead.
I identified with white culture, and I wanted to fit in. I didn’t identify with black culture, like, I didn’t like Tyler Perry movies, and I wasn’t into hip-hop music. I liked Neil Young. Black culture is so much deeper than that, but unfortunately that is what’s fed through the media. That’s what people see. That’s what I saw. But then I got older and listened to A Tribe Called Quest and watched films with Sidney Poitier, and heard Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. I had to un-brainwash myself. It’s my mission, especially as an actress. […] Loving yourself is a journey—we’re all just trying to figure it out.
[My eating disorder and being 90 pounds for the ‘Road Within’] scared the shit out of me. I was worried about my health. There was, 100 percent, a voice in my head that said, ‘You get to be really thin, and it’s OK.’ I felt that I could be like, ‘I’m not eating anything, and it’s for a job. It wasn’t as simple as that before, during, or after, but it made me confront the fact that I still had a problem. I couldn’t sing, which was a wake-up call telling me that I couldn’t treat my body that way and expect it to be fine. My hatred for my body and the way I looked was backfiring and taking away what I loved. I heard that so loud and clear.” – Zoë Kravitz as told to Nylon Magazine
Being a black woman is not a one size fits all experience. Zoë’s admission of her struggle to identify with black culture is a brave choice to make and we support her growth. She has so much to fall back on and be inspired by culturally. Women like her paternal grandmother, Roxie Roker, a black woman who made history as half of the first interracial couple to be shown on regular prime time television, contributed much to black American culture and helped to pave the way for her to even be an actress and singer herself. Opening up about her disordered eating and past struggles with body image and food may not come easy for her and her candor and honesty is admirable. She has been very open and candid about battling anorexia and bulimia up until New Year’s Eve 2013.
The easy thing to do would be to judge Zoë based on her family history rich in black culture. Or to judge her for falling prey to an eating disorder. But that’s not supportive nor is it reality. There are women who are not multiracial that find their place in black history muddled. There is a large group of black women who struggle with body acceptance. We support her growth. We support and encourage all of us to grow. We’re all trying to figure it out as women of the diaspora. It’s important for us to never forget where we came from, but it’s also equally important to carve out our own paths in life that not only celebrate our ancestors but creates new history for those that will follow us and soon call us their ancestors. It’s also equally important that we love ourselves for who we are. It’s often easier said than done, but self love makes living much more worthwhile when we accept ourselves fully–down to our dna.