After landing the iconic role of Maria in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning West Side Story, then 17-year-old Rachel Zegler kept climbing. In the coming months she has leading roles in the Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, DCEU Comics’ Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and Disney’s Snow White remake. “I’ve been a huge fan of everything that I’ve gotten to do so far,” the New Jersey native says. “I have to believe in manifesting.”
ZEGLER’S DAD works in construction, and her mom worked in camera film sales. “We make adoption jokes all the time: Where did I get my singing from?”
AWARDS SEASON had its fair share of unforgettable memories. “My custom Dior dress ripped at the Critics Choice Awards as I was leaving. Lady Gaga taps me on the shoulder: ‘I can’t let you leave like that.’ So she and Alana and Este Haim are MacGyvering a safety pin to save my dress. And then I kind of just hobbled out in complete shock.”
SHE JUST WRAPPED Snow White. “People are making these jokes about ours being the PC Snow White, where it’s like, yeah, it is—because it needed that. It’s an 85-year-old cartoon, and our version is a refreshing story about a young woman who has a function beyond ‘Someday My Prince Will Come.’ ”
SHE LEARNED she’d been cast as Anthea, a superhero goddess in the Shazam! sequel, from director David F. Sandberg personally. “I answered a little too quickly and casually, thinking he was my Postmate!”
HER CHARACTER in Songbirds and Snakes, Lucy Gray Baird, is a singer who uses her voice as protest. “She plants the seed, in my opinion, for what Katniss becomes.”
SHE’S DEALT with controversy. “I don’t think there could be a more stressful press tour than what I had to do for West Side Story. Having to answer for a lot of cultural questions”—her character is Puerto Rican, while Zegler is Colombian American—“and at the same time answer for why I got cast as a Disney princess that isn’t associated with my skin color—it was bizarre.”
UP NEXT, she hopes to make her Broadway debut, either in original material or a dream revival of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.
HAIR, TED GIBSON; MAKEUP, LISA STOREY; MANICURE, TOM BACHIK; TAILOR, HASMIK KOURINIAN; SET DESIGN, COLIN PHELAN. PRODUCED ON LOCATION BY PREISS CREATIVE. FOR DETAILS, GO TO VF.COM/CREDITS.