In my post about Jennifer Aniston earlier this week and her profile in WSJ. Magazine ahead of the premiere of season three of The Morning Show, I mentioned how we’re starting to see the rollout of banked press opportunities during the strike. As noted in that interview, it was conducted before SAG-AFTRA announced the work stoppage – and it’s the same with Zendaya’s new cover story for ELLE: the interview took place ahead of the strike but they’re pushing it out now… so, technically, this doesn’t violate union rules but it’s still promotion.
Interestingly though, what she was supposed to be promoting in ELLE is no longer coming out when it was supposed to. Zendaya is the star of Luca Guadagnino’s new film, Challengers, which initially was scheduled to world premiere in Venice before opening on September 15. That’s no longer happening because of the strike and the film has now been pushed to April 2024. Still, if you’re ELLE, and you get Zendaya for the cover of your September issue, you’re not missing out on the opportunity. Especially since the photo shoot has already happened and these are fall 2023 pieces.
While we’re talking about clothes… I mean, obviously, she looks amazing. This is, after all, Zendaya. But also Zendaya as styled by Law Roach.
As we all know by now, Law’s retirement clearly did not extend to her. And she tells ELLE that:
“He’s involved in every fashion contract, everything I do. If I have an opportunity where he can come with me, he’s always going to be there. He’s always been my creative director in a sense, and he continues to fill that role, because it’s more than just clothes on a red carpet. It’s a bigger thing.”
Here she is talking about their relationship and all the looks they’ve collaborated on together through the years.
As has been widely acknowledged, and by both Zendaya and Law themselves, the looks made Zendaya’s career. They used clothing and how she presented the clothing, the stories she was telling and the characters she was playing through the clothing, to level up – and with the spotlight that came with the looks, she leveraged the exposure into more opportunities.
Which brings us back to Challengers, and the role that she describes as the “first time really being a leading lady” on film. In Challengers, Zendaya plays Tashi, a former tennis phenom who is no longer playing due to injury. It’s about the love triangle that develops between Tashi, her husband, Art, and her ex, Patrick, both of whom are also tennis players.
As is the case with so much of Luca Guadagnino’s work, and as we were shown in the trailer that dropped a few months ago, this is a sexy film, palpably erotic – a space we haven’t seen Zendaya occupy until now. This is one of the reasons she decided to commit to the part: because it’s new for her, we’ve not seen this version of Zendaya yet – Zendaya the femme fatale, Zendaya the manipulator, using intimacy as her weapon.
And it’s coming at an interesting time, particularly this week, as Maria noted in Celebrity Social Media the other day, there’s an ongoing conversation about sex in film and television. As I wrote just yesterday, in my opinion there’s not enough of it anymore (when it’s done responsibly and respectfully), and there are some out there who don’t want to see it because, whatever, they don’t want their husbands to look at boobs. In my opinion this does storytelling a disservice. Because stories are about people and how people engage with other people. And people have sex!
Now Zendaya, one of the culture’s most high-profile stars, is about to enter her erotic era and challenge this pushback. I can’t wait to see the film…and the discourse that follows.