In the heart of majestic Havana, Cuba, the actress showcases fall's best fashion.
Zoe Saldaña en la portada de Septiembre 2016
Credit: Omar Cruz para People en Español

Havana's rich culture and architectural beauty was, without a doubt, the perfect backdrop to showcase this fall's most exquisite gowns, and Zoë Saldana the ideal muse to bring to life the story we wanted to tell. Over the course of two sweltering days in which fashion and history converged, we explored the capital—dubbed the Pearl of the Antilles—with the actress to bring you these unforgettable images.

Our mission was to highlight Latin designers, and Zoë, was game. We chose dresses in neutral notes, rich and luxurious textures, with regal cuts, appropriate for a fairy tale. But we also added crimson as an ode to the colorful vivacity of our Hispanic heritage and to contrast our surroundings.

The result is present for you to see. Zoë not only modeled each look with the elegance and grace of an ex-ballerina, but she interpreted the glamour of a Caribbean woman from a bygone era the only way an actress of her stature can.

How does it feel to be here?
It's a dream come true for me. I lived close to Cuba [in the Dominican Republic] until I was 17 years old, and grew up with Cuban friends and family. I've always been curious to know what it was like to live there. I remember that my cousins would vacation there with my aunts and uncles but we couldn't go because [we had US passports and] it was the nineties and things weren't easy. So when I was offered this pilgrimage I said yes. My husband [Marco Perego Saldaña] and I wanted to bring our children because we wanted to tell them in the future that they were here. We hope to come back when they are older so that we can have conversations about Cuba. Now that I'm here, it makes me happy to see the dignity and spirit with which Cubans live their lives.

In the upcoming film Live By Night, directed by Ben Affleck, you play a Cuban woman living in the twenties and thirties. How did the project come along?
Ben was putting his dream cast together. It was an era that he has always wanted to explore as a director. I read the script a long time ago and I wasn't interested. I remember he told me, “There's nobody else, I don't want to get somebody with different skin color, in the book she's described Afro-Latina. You are Latin, you're super present, you don't speak Spanglish.” So I said, “Ok, let's do it.”

Let's talk about your style. One thing that stands out is your love of fashion.
I like to take a backstage approach to art. I'm not into celebrity, I'm not into fame. So my approach to fashion is not so superficial. I don't know how to act that way because I basically grew up behind the curtain, at my grandmother's feet, with the sound of a sewing machine, watching a button, feeling the fabric. That is wealth.

So for you fashion and art go hand in hand…
My wealth comes from the fact that my mother knew that the Black Theater of Prague was in town and instead of taking us to mini golf or the newest Pizza Hut that had just opened in the capital in the nineties in the Dominican Republic, she saved up and took us to the National Theater to see a musical or the ballet. She didn't force technology on us. She would always say, “Go play outside, climb trees, read!”

Zoe Saldaña en La Habana
Zoe Saldaña en La Habana.

What designers fit your style?
I like designers that are honest, humble, cultured and artists. I like designers who follow their own trends. Prabal Gurung is exquisite; he's comes from Nepal and studied in India, England and New York. He speaks four languages. He knows about art. I wore Dolce & Gabbana to the Met Ball and you trust them because you know that they're artists, they're Italian, they're Sicilian and they're loyal to their roots.

What do you tend to wear when you're at home with your kids?
I love jeans. I feel very androgynous in them, just as strong and tough as I do feminine and fragile. I'm obsessed with 7 [For all Mankind]. You can tell that in their design team there are women with curves, with booties, women with short and long legs because you have the options. [Now] that I'm a mother and I've seen my body transform, I want to wear things that compliment me and also make me feel comfortable.

What else has changed since you had your children?
I can't wear four-inch heels for four hours anymore. I make sure that the shoes I wear were designed by women that wear them, who know what it's like when your back hurts, or when you can't feel your toes, and they avoid that without compromising the beauty of wearing heels. I love celebrating women and for them to feel included.

Tell me about your new YouTube channel.
It's called Cinestar and we [my sisters and I] are taking great pride and pleasure in creating content for women. We sit around a table and drink wine while we talk about work. We're working to inspire women to take pride in their bodies.

You lead a very healthy lifestyle. How did you achieve it?
I don't come form a culture that's predominantly tall and slim. We don't eat carrots or bland chicken breast; we eat soup, stews, rice, fried food, everything! Everything in our diet dictates us to be just as we are. So I want to be considerate of that. If God gave you thick legs then work with what you have, and if you're still not happy, then be disciplined. I don't believe in tomorrows, I believe in today. Diets must not exist in a woman's vocabulary. It's a choice of life. In order for you to take pride in yourself you have to be aware of what you are putting in your body and how you are treating it.

What do you have coming up work-wise?
Directing. It's very hard for me to have such little control over in a project that I'm part of. I love to tell stories, so I'm curious to see what it's like to be the narrator instead of the subject. I just want to be with my family, too. The reality as soon as I come home is much better and stronger; more surreal, more nurturing and inspiring.

Check out the September issue for more exclusive images of Zoe Saldaña in Cuba, on sale tomorrow.

Zoe Saldaña en la portada de Septiembre 2016
Zoe Saldaña en la portada de Septiembre 2016.