Byline: Julee Greenberg

NEW YORK — When Zoe Saldana walked into Starbucks, few heads turned for the burgeoning starlet.
Although her third film, “Crossroads,” with co-stars Britney Spears, Taryn Manning and Anson Mount, is now in theaters, Saldana insisted that she is hardly ever recognized in public.
“I get some stares when I am walking down the street sometimes, but no one really says anything,” she said before getting on line for a cold drink. After five minutes on line, with beverage in hand, she is ready to talk. But first, she added: “The girl at the counter knew who I was. I swear, that never happens.”
Born in New Jersey and raised in the Caribbean, the 23-year-old Saldana now lives in Queens, N.Y., with her mother, grandmother and two sisters. Her humble demeanor is in contrast to her movie roles thus far, which have typecast her as a girl with major attitude. Her choice of attire this day seems to match her sincere and understated nature: a simple black T-shirt from Diesel and blue jeans from Abercrombie & Fitch.
In her first film, “Center Stage,” which came out in 2000, Saldana plays Eva, a stereotypical urban Latina girl who is looking to make it as a ballerina in New York. She is the first to rebel against her teachers and to tell off her goody-two-shoes roommate.
In “Crossroads,” she plays Kit, one of the most popular girls in her small-town high school. She wears all the latest trends and has a boyfriend in college, something that causes jealousy among the other girls.
“Kit was such a hard character to play,” Saldana said. “She was the girl that everyone hates. When I first saw the script, I really thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. But as an actor, I had to do it. Thanks to my acting coach, Kit came to life.”
Besides her roles in “Center Stage” and “Crossroads,” Saldana had a small role in “Get Over It,” which was only released in theaters for a short time in 2001. Last year, she starred in “Snipes,” an independent film with rap star Nelly. Her next movie, “Drumline,” is set to hit theaters in late summer.
Starring with Nick Cannon, who is best known for his TV show on Nickelodeon, and Orlando Jones, Saldana plays Cannon’s love interest. The film is about a boy from Harlem (Cannon) who is sent to a prestigious college to play in the band. Saldana’s character is a big fan of hip-hop music who can be found dancing at the local clubs.
“I love to dance to that music, but I had a really hard time learning it,” she said. “I just wasn’t born with that sort of rhythm.”
But she was born with grace. Before she began acting, Saldana was a ballet dancer, which is the only similarity she had with her “Center Stage” character, but she decided to stop dancing to pursue acting five years ago.
“I really was just bored of it,” she said. “Center Stage’ was my first everything in acting, so I loved doing it, but it was both physically and emotionally draining. I was leaving dancing and there I was in a movie about it. I still yearned for it, but at the same time, ‘Center Stage’ was my closure for that part of my life.” elegance and simplicity, without a lot of glitz and glamour. She has taken a sudden interest in trends, something she used to not think much about.
“It’s so funny to think that I am going to be in a fashion shoot. I am the one who is always a step behind the trends that I see my friends wearing,” she said. “I am the one at the store one day later than everyone else.”
Now, she has taken an interest in fashion.
“I never had the money to wear clothes of such good quality,” she said, citing designer brands Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana as a few of her favorites. “Now I know what the big deal is. Better fabrics just fall better on the body.”
While she said she is not willing to give up her jeans and boots anytime soon, Saldana likes the classic looks of Prada, the hipness of Marc Jacobs and the sexiness of Dolce & Gabbana.
“A long beautiful gown from Dolce & Gabbana just feels so sexy on,” she said. “I just love that.”
Saldana prefers to go for the understated look, which is another difference from her character in “Crossroads.” Kit wore bold colors and sexier clothes than Saldana chooses to wear. Her co-star, Spears, who played shy-girl Lucy, liked Kit’s clothes better than her own.
“Britney and I used to say we wanted our characters to switch clothes because we felt more comfortable in each other’s,” she said. “By the end of the movie, we were digging in each other’s suitcases.”
Kit also liked to wear a lot of makeup, something Saldana does not do.
“My mom has to pay me to wear lipstick sometimes,” she said. “But I put some on for today.”
Since wrapping up “Crossroads,” Saldana has kept in touch with Manning, but is having a hard time keeping up with Spears.
“I see Taryn around, since she lives here. Britney and I play phone tag, since she is always traveling,” she said. “We will stay friends. She is really the sweetest, nicest girl. She is so humble and just an all-around great person.”
Now Saldana is concentrating on promoting “Drumline.” But before all that madness begins, she is taking time to spend with her family and her boyfriend of two years.
“He is my best friend and such a great supporter of everything I do,” she said. “I am really lucky.”

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