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Women’s History NJ: Zoe Saldana

Long before she was one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, Zoe Saldana was a New Jersey baby. In fact, she was born in Passaic on June 19, 1978. However, while Saldana was still young, her family moved to Jackson Heights, New York. When she was nine, a car accident took her father’s life: afterward, her mother took Zoe and her two sisters to the Dominican Republic.

Saldana is bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish, so the Caribbean did not present a language barrier. During her time in the Dominican Republic, Saldana developed a passion for dance. At a local dance academy, she studied a variety of dance genres and techniques, ballet being her favorite.

Early Life and Career

After completing her sophomore year of high school, Saldana and her family returned to New York. She joined a theater group, Faces in Brooklyn, and began performing with the New York Youth Theater at 17. These shows often spread positive messages to teens and young adults struggling with substance abuse and sexuality concerns. Additionally, her time performing helped Saldana get recruited by a talent agency.

Zoe Saldana at Camp Arifjan
Zoe Saldana signing autographs at Camp Arifjan

Saldana’s first acting role on screen came during the 1999 television episode of Law & Order, “Merger.” Then, her acting and previous dance training landed her a film role as ballet student Eva Rodriguez in the 2000 teen drama film, Center Stage. Things would soon snowball, as she took on many roles across film and TV. Within a few short years, her resume included Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Law & Order: SVU, The Terminal, Drumline and Haven.

Breakout Roles

Zoe Saldana really hit her stride 10 years after first appearing on-screen. In the spring of 2009, the Star Trek reboot flew into theaters; the movie was a major box office success, and Saldana herself received rave reviews for her performance. That following December, Saldana played the role of Neytiri in the adventure-fantasy film Avatar. The film became one of the highest grossing films of all time. Her standout performance in Avatar helped catapult her into Hollywood stardom.

At this point, Saldana has performed in a number of critically acclaimed movies; in fact, she is even part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Gamora, the adopted daughter of super villain Thanos. She continues to reprise her role in the Star Trek sequels as well as the sequels to Avatar.

Zoe Saldana lives a relatively quiet personal life. In 2013, she married Italian artist Marco Perego; presently, they have three sons together. Saldana, her mother and her sisters all have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. In order to keep the condition at bay, she follows a strict gluten-free and dairy-free diet. She also remains active, doing Pilates regularly, and keeps busy in her numerous acting roles.