In this job, we're sometimes lucky enough to get to meet people who are just so naturally talented (and even prettier IRL) that even the least starstruck-prone of the bunch gets kind of intimidated. Meeting 19-year-old Zendaya (which, we now know is correctly pronounced Zen-DAY-a), the entertainment industry’s version of a triple threat—actress, singer and dancer—is a little bit like that. After arriving to find the newly appointment CHI hair ambassador sitting pretty with a head full of curls (the volume level was :ok_hand:) and a flawlessly smoked out eye situation, we immediately wished we’d put more effort into our usual wash-and-go routine that morning. All we could do was sit back and watch in admiration as she expertly posed for photographs, nailing each portrait in some kind of fierce way. And yeah, for someone who’s been in the spotlight since a young age, it's safe to say that she’s well versed in the whole modeling thing, too.
After mentally taking pointers for the next time we found ourselves behind the lens, we sat down to talk all things hair and makeup. What we actually ended up chatting about, was much, much more. Like how beauty—getting your nails done, a little at-home hair masking (way more on that topic below)—is as good for your image as it is your state of mind, her mother’s recent beauty revolution (her personal take on it is as precious as it is mature), and why she doesn’t let the critics get to her: "to me, there’s no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to style, fashion and hair. You just do what you want. Don't let other people’s opinions of you determine, or make you afraid of trying new things." We couldn’t agree more. (Oh and Zendaya? While we're into all of your hair looks of late, if anyone can bring back the mullet, it's you.)
On her hair routine (which she has down pat)
“When it comes to hair and skin, my best tip is to not to do too much. Find a routine that works for you and kind of stick to that. CHI Argan Oil is my favorite because I have curly, wavy kind of hair, which requires a bit more moisture. I don’t shampoo my hair every day because that dries my hair out. So I shampoo every other day, and focus on roots. Then there’s a really awesome CHI mask that I use more than I feel like I’m supposed to because I just love it so much, it makes my hair so soft.
Because of the craziness of my schedule, whenever I can fit in a mask I’ll do it. I leave it for 30 minutes and just hang out, sometimes I even add a little coconut oil in it. I’ll bring a hair clip in the shower and do everything else and then wash it out. After that I throw oil through and wear my hair as natural as possible. I’ll also use the styling cream gel, because it’s not crunchy, then I scrunch my hair and use the diffuser. If you have curly or wavy hair the diffuser is the best way to get the waves going, and I’m sure even if you have straight-ish hair it’ll give it a little somethin' somethin'.”
On the key to healthy skin
“I have sensitive skin, so I can’t do too much. Exfoliation is definitely the key to healthy skin, just getting all that dry, dead skin off as much as possible. Some people can’t do everyday because their skin is more sensitive, so definitely find a good exfoliator and a good moisturizer. At least once a week, just pack it on before you go to bed, really get it super, super moisturizing (unless you have oily skin then it might not be as good for you) but, for me I have to have lotion at all times. I don’t do a lot of face masks necessarily but I do put on a really thick moisturizer and I don’t rub it in all the way.”
What she's learned on set
“Don’t be afraid to experiment with clip-ins and extensions, because you’d be surprised as to how much that saves your hair! If you’re using clips, wigs, etc. you can protect your hair at the same time. Also when using a flat iron and hot tools definitely check your heat settings. That’s what I really like about the CHI ones; there’s three different heat settings, so you can pick based on your hair texture. If you have fine hair, I wouldn’t bump it all the way up. And especially if you’re out of the country, watch your voltage!”
Her favorite hair product
“The CHI hair mask is the one. I made my mom use it because she recently cut her hair and went icy, platinum blonde, and she was a brunette like me. So after a while her hair was brittle felt dry. And I’m telling you, the next day after the mask she was like ‘it really worked!’ It makes your hair really soft.”
Everything she's learned about haircare
“Doing a hair mask and watching out for heat. If you're going to use flat irons and curling irons you have to be careful and go through the proper steps to prevent heat damage—a lot of people think if they do a hair mask after, everything will be fine. But you have to prep your hair and use heat protectant. Another thing I learned is when you’re taking a shower, keep your hair off your body wash because the detergents and fragrance will dry out your hair. Other than that, pop a wig on! Then you can use as much heat as you want.
Silk pillowcases help lock in moisture, for all hair but especially for women of color—we have to be extra careful and protecting because curly hair gets drier much faster. If you have straight hair only one side of your hair follicle is really getting heat damage but if you have curly hair, all sides of the follicle are getting hit by sun and everything. It takes a lot more moisture and effort. These are all things I had to research and learn about—I’ve talked to the “curl doctors and researched about my kind of hair texture. Little things like wrapping your hair at night, having silk pillowcases, using moisture masks and heat protectant. I tell my little nieces so they understand how to use hot tools and trimming their hair every so often. I definitely want everyone to avoid the mistakes I made and do it the right way!”
On her teenage hair drama
“When CHI reached out, I was already very familiar with the products because when I was younger, I really got into YouTube tutorials of beauty gurus, which is how I first found out about the brand. The cool thing was to buy CHI products, so I bought their stuff but I didn’t know how to use it properly. Not everyone has the same hair, not everybody has the same process. Everybody’s hair is different—I went through my hair drama when I was about thirteen.
The stylist on the show I was on was using heat way too high, too often, without heat protectant. Back then I didn’t know how to moisturize or take care of my hair, so my hair was just dry, broken, disgusting—it was awful. For almost two or three years I had to grow my hair back and that’s when I wore weaves to protect my hair and it took a long time for me to grow my hair to a place where I was comfortable having it out again."
On her desert island products
“I would bring the CHI styling cream gel, because I could use salt water and then boom, I’ll have fresh beach curls. I would also bring some type of moisturizing situation—definitely my hair mask. Then shampoo because I mean…
I would bring a good mascara, I love CoverGirl’s LashBlast, TruNaked eye shadow palette because I could use the light color not only for my eyes but as a highlighter, too. So I would be GLOWING. And then an Oh Sugar! tinted lip balm so I could use that on my lips and cheeks. Double up, right?”
On her mom’s beauty transformation
“I used to always try to play in my mom’s stuff. My mom never has been into makeup or fashion—she was just not that woman. Within the past year she’s become SUPER woman. She gets her eyelashes done, everything. I think moms in general go through a phase of where they put all their energy and effort into their kids, into other people, and they forget about themselves. She forgot about herself, she didn’t feel beautiful, she didn’t feel confident in her body. So with me being grown now, she can kind of focus on her, which is so great to see! That you can go through that butterfly transformation anytime. She cut all her hair off, got all new clothes, goes spinning everyday and wears makeup now!
It doesn’t mean you have to—but it’s nice to see a woman feel good about herself. That doesn’t mean that you need makeup or hair to feel good but putting on some lip gloss or just getting your hair or nails done just makes you feel good sometimes! It’s a little me-time when you can do your thing.”
On experimenting with her look (and confronting critics)
“I just enjoy fashion and beauty—it’s fun! I love the fact that the new wave of makeup is less geared towards ‘oh, women wear makeup because we’re trying to impress people or because we don’t feel confident in ourselves…’ Now it’s more about art, about feeling good, about experimenting with your look—it’s not to impress other people. Changing up your look is not for somebody else, it’s to look good for yourself. I love seeing that with makeup and hair gurus on Twitter and Instagram, it’s just dope.
My favorite look lately, I know some of my fans like this and some of my fans don’t and that’s the whole point but I really like this short, blonde situation. I’m really into it, it makes me feel so much cooler. And my mullet, which had been so dramatic. Because it’s different, a lot of people are afraid of what’s different. The mullet’s coming back everybody! I’m not going to wear it often but when it does come back, I’m going to look at everybody and say, ‘now you all want to wear my mullet’."
On her wellness routine
“I take all my little essential vitamins—we have all these drops, echinacea, goldenseal, ginger root, it’s disgusting but it definitely helps. If nothing else, at least get your essential situations. I don't like to drink water—I have to be really thirsty or it has to have some type of lemon or something in it. It has to have some type of flavor to it, I need a little something something in there, lemon water is good."
Her favorite on-the-road snacks
"Ice cream is my favorite snack. It isn’t [very travel friendly] but I will always find ice cream. People think I’m going to say, whole-grain, organic, gluten-free snacks but I like Funyuns—that’s what I really eat. I’m just keeping it honest. I really should eat all that good stuff but I would rather have chips. People think because I’m skinny I just don’t eat, or I have a diet, but that would be a lie. It’s just my metabolism, I’m a 19-year-old.”
On style icons
"To me, there’s no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to style, fashion and hair. You just do what you want. Do not let other people’s opinions of you determine, or make you afraid of trying new things. If everyone looked the same there would be no such thing as fashion icons—you can’t look like everybody else and be an icon. You can’t sound like everybody else and be an icon, there’s no way! That’s why we have the greats of the great. That’s why Cher is who she is. They don’t care, they do what they want!”