Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana Biography

Actress, Model(1978–)
Zoe Saldana is a trained dancer who's become a leading actress in Hollywood, having starred in blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek and Avatar.


Born on June 19, 1978 in Passaic, New Jersey, and partly raised in the Dominican Republic, the bilingual Zoe Saldana started her acting career in films like Crossroads, Drumline, The Terminal and Pirates of the Caribbean. After years of diverse work, in 2009 she landed leading roles in the blockbusters Star Trek and Avatar. She's also been a model for Avon, the Gap and Calvin Klein.

Early Life

Born in Passaic, New Jersey on June 19, 1978, Zoe Saldana grew up in Queens to a mixed ethnic heritage, with her mother being of Puerto Rican descent and her father hailing from the Dominican Republic. At the age of 9, her father died in a car accident, and her mother subsequently moved Saldana and her two sisters Cisely and Mariel to the Dominican Republic, where they lived with their grandparents.

The three siblings grew up very close while Saldana studied a variety of dance forms at ECOS Espacio de Danza Academy, developing a particular fondness for ballet. She moved back to New York at 17 and continued dancing while also joining Faces, a teen-oriented theater group, and the New York Youth Theater, through which she was discovered by a talent agent.

Acting Debut

Following a guest spot on Law & Order, Saldana made her movie acting debut appropriately enough with the dance drama Center Stage, which portrayed a group of ballet students training at an academy. She then snagged supporting roles over the following years in a diverse array of films. After being featured in the teen comedy Get Over It!, the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads and the hip-hop thriller Snipes, Saldana portrayed the captain of a dance team in the 2002 film Drumline. She then appeared in 2003 in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl as Anamaria, a former lover of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) who gives him a wallop for his roguish behavior. In 2004, she appeared in the drama The Terminal with Tom Hanks, as well as Haven.

During the mid-2000s, Saldana continued to act in a number of ensemble films, both commercial and indie, and appeared on TV with roles in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Six Degrees. In 2005, she starred in Guess Who, a comedic update of the Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy classic Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; the newer version switched the racial roles of the original, with Bernie Mac as Saldana's wary African-American father and Ashton Kutcher as her beleaguered white fiancé. She was also later featured in the 2008 thriller Vantage Point.

'Star Trek' and 'Avatar'

Two-thousand nine was a blockbuster year for Saldana's career. After the thriller The Skeptic, Saldana starred in the remake of Star Trek by director J.J. Abrams, in which she played Communications Officer Uhura. In December 2009, she starred as Neytiri, an alien warrior, in the 3D sci-fi epic Avatar, which would go on to become the world's highest-grossing film. Director James Cameron used performance capture technology to create Saldana's computer-generated character, driven by her bodily movements and facial expressions in a studio setting. Saldana spent months training for the athletic role, taking up horseback riding, archery and wushu martial arts.

The following year, Saldana starred in the ensemble comedic remake Death at a Funeral with Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence, as well as two action capers—The Losers and Takers—and the comedic Burning Palms. In 2011, she landed the sole lead role in Colombiana, which featured Saldana as an assassin out to avenge the murder of her parents.

Another Hit With 'Guardians'

The year 2012 saw Saldana making news off-screen by rushing to the aid of a woman who was injured in a car crash. Later that year, The Words was released, a return to serious drama for the actress about a struggling writer, portrayed by Bradley Cooper, who plagiarizes another person's work. She's also co-directed episodes for The Rope, a web series developed by Vin Diesel about bouncers and the world of nightlife.

Saldana returned to the Star Trek franchise with the 2013 sequel Into Darkness. And the following year she added comic-book hero to her list of roles, portraying the green-skinned assassin Gamora in Marvel's well-received Guardians of the Galaxy, which broke August's domestic box office records for debut earnings. The project also co-starred Diesel and Cooper, among others. 

Modeling Career

Outside of acting, Saldana has a strong interest in fashion. She has appeared in Calvin Klein lingerie commercials, in which she's performed monologues offering tidbits on vulnerability, mystery and strength. She's also appeared as a spokesperson for Avon, and modeled with her sisters in a Gap print ad and W magazine editorial. Saldana has appeared in many other magazines as well, including Elle, Vanity Fair, Latina, GQ Italia, Essence, Nylon and InStyle.

Personal Life

Saldana was reportedly romantically linked with Cooper after her relationship ended with longtime boyfriend, actor Keith Britton, with whom she partnered to found the website for My Fashion Database. In 2013, Saldana married Marco Perego and in 2014 the couple welcomed twins boys. 

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