Zuri Adele on Colorism in Beauty, Wearing Dreadlocks on TV and Her Skin-Care Fridge


Zuri Adele has a lot in common with her character Malika in Good Trouble. Both women are passionate advocates for marginalized communities, and both Adele and Malika have grown immensely over the course of the past four seasons, on-screen and off. Adele is, of course, even more dynamic than her character. She’s a certified yoga instructor, founder of The Zuri Adele Fellowship for HBCU Alumni, a woman of many passions and someone ardently devoted to her wellness and development. Adele opened up about the shift in representation behind-the-scenes that allowed her to feel more confident on camera, body, hair and color inclusivity, and more.

How has your character grown from season 1 of Good Trouble to season 4? How has this been reflected in her beauty and hair choices?

“That brings up a lot of different layers. So Malika has grown in the sense that she has more stability in her work life and financial life. She’s no longer hustling by DJing and bartending and organizing. Now she’s able to focus a lot of her time and energy on her activism by way of working within the city council. So there’s more sophistication in her. She’s in very professional and political environments and has more stability, and we can see that in her. 

Her wardrobe is elevating more because when she was DJing and bartending and on the front lines, her wardrobe was more casual. Now she’s dressing up more to be in the office, which we saw a shift in when she was starting to work in the nonprofit space beforehand. So we saw a gradual shift. Now she’s around people who are in suits a lot, and she’s presenting to those people. So she’s stepping up as much as she can. And I see that in her hair as well. 

Her hair is more styled, a little more elegant and her makeup is as well. I think that there’s a shift there because, while she’s still being her authentic self, she’s needing to kind of mold with the suits a little bit more now. So we see that, and there’s also been a shift behind the scenes.”

“We’ve had more skill sets for my skin and hair show up behind the scenes as a result of a lot of speaking up. And so that may have happened regardless of the writing. I’m really glad that it’s happening no matter what because it is going in line with the writing for Malika, although there was definitely an opportunity for her to have that elevated look, even when she was going through it. 

For me, as a black millennial, when I was in Malika’s economic space, there was a pride in not always looking like what you’re going through. So I think there’s always room for that. It’s amazing now that we’re seeing the elevation even more in Malika and seeing her confidence even more. I feel that. I feel more confident by how I’m now able to look on camera. I’m able to share that with the character.”

I know you’re a passionate advocate for marginalized communities. How do you think marginalization manifests itself in the beauty industry, and what, in your opinion, can be done to shift it?

“It shows up in so many ways. I see this shift happening and feel it. I see so much more representation. The first thing that comes to mind is colorism. I’m really happy to now see more and more women my skin tone and darker. I grew up where my mom was telling me about the ‘brown paper bag test’ and how she didn’t pass it, so she couldn’t be a flight attendant and just not always seeing women who look like me or my mom or any deep brown skin as much. [We didn’t see dark skin] catered to in beauty products or makeup lines, [dark skin wasn’t] lit well in campaigns. On TV [people with dark skin weren’t] the leading person or object of desire in any way, and I’m seeing that shift more and more, and I love it. 

I’m also loving seeing such an inclusive range in body types and sizes now and understanding how healthy my body is and how healthy it is to have a beautiful full body. [I’m] seeing ranges with petite bodies and fit bodies all being considered healthy. We’re straying away from one particular notion about what’s healthy or what’s sexy.

Hair texture. For so long, I wore a relaxer in my hair to keep it really straight. It was in college when my friends and I just started wearing our natural hair and curl patterns and seeing more accessibility of products that cater to really thick hair and really kinky coils or locs. As a person who wears locs on television, that’s still a new thing. [I’ve heard] from people who are really moved by seeing themselves on screen, and that was a big decision for me because of the types of roles that I wanted to play and the back and forth conversations I had about that. [People are now] highlighting locs and they care for them behind the scenes on TV sets. People who can really cater to either thick, kinky coils or natural hair or dreadlocks [are being hired]. 

All of that is shifting, and I’m really proud of that. Of course, there’s still room for growth. I see a lot of forward movement, and it feels good to be a part of that. Sometimes it feels frustrating, but in many ways, it’s really exciting.”

I know you’re a yoga instructor. What about the practice do you find so beneficial? How often are you still practicing?

“Oh, I’m practicing yoga every day as much as I can. I mean, the movement of it, but also just in terms of incorporating and integrating the principles of yoga into my life. Breathing, breath awareness, proprioception and an understanding of what my body is doing at all times are really helpful on set. It’s a really helpful vocal warm up tool. It’s a helpful tool to stay grounded and practice that inner yoga within my body while so much is going on—whether it’s a bunch of different touch-ups in between takes or a director giving a note or switching something up on the script, and while multiple things are happening—I’m staying in that centered, grounded place.

I find that consistent yoga practice has been what I’ve turned to no matter where I am, whether we’re shooting downtown and a crowd of people are there or we’re on set in a really intimate scene on our soundstage. Even in the hair and makeup trailer, just making sure that that’s my time where I’m able to focus and prepare, yoga really shows up. 

It’s been really important to me to have a practice before I go to work so that I can move all the energy through my body because Malika goes through a lot of emotional experiences. And I personally go through a lot of emotional experiences. Holding space for both in my body requires that I move my body a lot. So I practice as much as I can before I go to work, or at least when I come home or a few times a week, depending on what the schedule allows.

That’s the beauty of what yoga has taught me. The flexibility to not be so rigid about needing to do it every single day at this time but to give myself grace. That helps me on set. It helps me stay playful and helps me stay in tune with my body and interactive and collaborative. I’m really grateful for that chapter. It’s helped me be able to lead myself through practices no matter where I am. It’s also a fun way of teaching or guiding friends and loved ones through a practice as well.”

What other wellness practices do you enjoy?

“I found that acupuncture has been really helpful for me. Now I go to acupuncture once a week. I find that meeting weekly with my acupuncturist, while it’s different from therapy, [offers] a level of accountability. They’re someone who has a holistic approach to my wellness and knows what my work life and lifestyle are like and gets a really strong sense of what’s going on in my body every single week. It’s a great way to reset. As actors, we are such athletes. We use our whole body, so it’s just been really healing for me. I’m really grateful for that. 

Talk therapy weekly has been really helpful and crucial for me to have some more accountability and guidance and wisdom with someone who I can talk to who I trust about what’s going on in every aspect of my life and reminds me to calm down and breathe.

I also do boxing and Eskrima, which is a Filipino martial arts style with sticks and knives. The balance of yoga and that type of movement and also hitting something and staying ready and feeling strong. That’s a really great wellness practice for me being confident in my body and just feeling really confident. With all the different fittings and all the eyes on our bodies and all the different things that can get written in and what that might require physically, it’s so good for me and my wellness to feel confident and strong.

Eating mindfully and also giving myself grace when I take days off of those things. That’s also a wellness practice in itself. Hygiene is a big one like water, showers, making sure to just feel clean and presentable. I’ve been playing my sound bowls a lot or using the sound bowls during my meditation. I play them when I sit down and before bedtime or when I wake up, and that’s always really nice. Music is just so helpful. Playing music around the house to just shift the atmosphere, whether it’s gospel or meditation music that’s instrumental or affirmation music. I love anything that’s going to kind of gas me up or anything that’s chill like ‘breathe in, breathe out.’ I’ve got a whole long list of playlists for that vibe.”

Skin care can be a part of self-care, so what do you do for your skin?

“Okay, I’m getting really into skin care, so I’m so glad you asked. I have this little mini skin-care fridge in my bathroom now. I mean, the main thing is drinking water and minding my business. That has been the number-one thing I’ve learned, staying hydrated and staying at peace.

I’m loving taking my vitamins and consulting with my medical care team about what I need, making sure I have the right amount of iron and electrolytes and collagen, all of that stuff and making sure that that’s uniquely crafted for my needs and that has really shown up in my skin. Staying active and letting the sun get on my skin and being outside and using a good SPF. I love Black Girl Sunscreen. Working out and sweating have also been really helpful for my skin, consistently moving the whole body. Food has been a big part of it, eating mindfully.

The whole skin-care fridge is a nice added little thing when all the moisturizers are cold when you put them on and the little under eye patches. Ever since filming Good Trouble, I’ve learned so much. I’ve never worn makeup so often before filming Good Trouble just because we’re wearing it every day at work for such long hours.

The makeup team really helped me learn how to thoroughly wash my face and to get a facial every month and what I need out of that and hydrating and doing my clay mask every week. Sometimes it’s trial and error. What works for you and what works for a friend might be something different. Be willing to try it out and let it go if it doesn’t work. Some people don’t need anything at all, and I admire that. It’s been fun to have a routine. I’m finding the fun in taking care of my skin which is a new thing in the last couple of years. I’m just like making a whole spa out of it.”