If I told you to think of the combination of Snow White and Juliet, who would you think of? Classy, beautiful Audrey Hepburn? Innocent, tragic Judy Garland? Or maybe Maria herself, Natalie Wood? If you asked modern filmmakers this question, I am positive that they would answer with the 20 year old rising movie star Rachel Zegler. I mean, this girl turns everything she touches into gold (and we haven’t even seen anything from her yet!)
Rachel was born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 2001 to a Polish father and a Columbian mother, and ever since then she has been booked and busy. Through all four years of high school she was the lead in all four spring musicals (the envy of every theater kid), her favorite being Fiona in Shrek her senior year.
Of course Shrek is the Gen Z kid’s favorite. I’m feeling more represented in Hollywood already!
But she didn’t just specialize in live performance. Rachel has had a YouTube channel she has been posting on since 2015, showing the world both recorded musical performances from her school and from her room. All of her videos feature a smiling girl, either donning a lavish costume or holding a ukulele and singing her heart out. But despite her YouTube presence, Twitter is where she really started to grow.
On December 14th, 2018, Rachel posted a 37 second video of herself in her school auditorium singing the A Star is Born song “Shallow”. And HOLY COW did it blow up, garnering millions of views in just a couple of weeks. As of right now, it has 11.7 million views on Twitter and 3.1 million views on YouTube.
This newfound fame commanded attention from more than just the internet, however. Legendary film director Steven Speilberg announced that he was going to be directing a remake of the classic Broadway musical, West Side Story. In order to find his Maria, he went to Twitter for virtual auditions, and over 30,000 people applied! But I guess the power of her Lady Gaga cover was just too overwhelming, and Rachel got the role.
Rachel, along with Ansel Elgort playing Tony and Rita Moreno playing a gender swapped Doc, started filming the remake in July 2019 and ended two months later. Rachel said that she loved filming and that being on a movie set felt like home. Here is her reaction to the first trailer of the movie coming out.
And just in case, here is a link to that very trailer!
But her industry success doesn’t end there, last week was huge for her. It was just announced that she would be playing the titular role in the Disney live action remake “Snow White”. A perfect casting choice if you ask me!
If that wasn’t enough, she was also announced to be cast in the “Shazam!” sequel. Superhero movies, Spielberg, and Disney- it doesn’t get any bigger than that!
Rachel is definitely what we would call a rising star, but I think she’s more than that too. She’s a part of the esteemed club of Gen Z celebrities that not only appeal to older people, but also appeal to people of their generation: just by being themselves. Others like her, like Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, are building huge Gen Z fanbases by posting memes, using viral TikTok sounds, and referencing Vine. I know I sounded like I was joking when I said I felt represented earlier, but ever time I see her on Twitter making the same jokes I would, it makes me feel like I can be as cool as her.