“My whole life, everyone has told me: ‘You’ll figure it out. You got this.’ After a while, that started to feel like pressure. Sometimes, I just want a lifeline. But I also know that whenever I have received a safety device in life, I hold on too tight. I have to remember that I will figure it out, but that doesn’t mean I have to figure everything out right now.”
Zuri Marley is an actress, musician, and DJ. When the past year paused many of Zuri’s projects, her focus shifted to more intimate goals: staying sane, staying open, and regaining a positive relationship with her body. Like many of us, Zuri has found this year to be a powerful catalyst for both personal and political change – and she’s committed to moving through it all at her own pace.
“I’m a homebody. When I’m in my zone, you’re going to have to persuade me to go out. I don’t think my friends would call me stubborn, but maybe? I think I’m quite malleable if the vibe is right. Sometimes I struggle with telling people ‘no,’ but it’s important that I have my time, especially in the mornings. Your morning, your way! My friend used to have duct tape on her wall that spelled ‘GET UP, GET DRESSED.’ I’ve definitely taken that motto with me.”
“I grew up in Jamaica and moved to New York for college when I was seventeen. I’m in LA now. The culture in both these cities is very different. Sundays in Jamaica are rest days. Most things in town aren’t open. You have dinner with your family. You appreciate the day for being just that: a day for yourself. I’ve been trying to get back to that mentality here: having my one day after a busy week. What happened with quarantine, of course, was that every day became that one day. So, now, the challenge is about striking the balance. But when I need my peace, I need my peace.”
“Moving here [from Jamaica] was definitely a culture shock, but the thing that was most apparent was the dog-eat-dog effects of capitalism. Jamaica has family vibes; a sense of bartering based on the idea that you’re building relationships with one another. You help someone out knowing that they will help you out in return. Here, I notice people are less willing to do those things unless there is an immediate, concrete trade-off.
Zuri notes that this individualism is often fear-based and keeps us from prioritizing community-based actions, including personal accountability, when we need those things the most.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has been a big part of my life, especially during quarantine, but, as great as it’s been to see everybody come together, I’m wary of performative activism on social media. It really stresses me out when I think about non-POC and the future of this movement. Sometimes there is a lack of real conversations, but I am happy some progress is being made.”
“I thrive on conversation and nuance, but we live in this culture where we police each other’s voices and attack each other for saying one wrong thing. It can be a big distraction from what we need to be focusing on.”
“My hope is that we can move towards personal accountability and away from finger-pointing. There’s an old Jamaican saying: When you point one finger, remember that there are three pointing back at you. I always try to remember that. We need to be having more conversations, which means we need to create spaces that are safe and open enough to ask questions, without the fear of being canceled.”
“I’m a very open person. If I’m able to leave any legacy behind, I want it to be an example of openness. Open to conversations with others. Open to nuance. Open to change. If I can spread that openness on a large scale, great. If that’s not happening right now, I’m going to focus on being open on a smaller scale: in my own life, with my own body, with my own evolving ideas. Personal accountability.”
Zuri was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a little over a year ago, causing a lot of changes in her body, from weight gain to hormonal imbalance. Being open to these changes has led her on a journey of acceptance, understanding, and redefining control.
“For a while, I let my relationship with my body go. I wanted control but didn’t have it, so I decided I was going to eat whatever I wanted and do whatever I wanted. One morning, I woke up and realized I wasn’t throwing my body things it could process, so I decided to be more mindful. Mindfulness quickly became too mindful. Too much calorie counting and restriction. Then, I ate one bad thing and all of the mindfulness fell away.”
“I realize now how backward both those approaches are. When we want control, we need to take control in a positive way, which usually means releasing the grip, listening to our bodies, and being open to what they have to say. I’m working on that.”
“Having a medical condition that changed my body has made me look back on all the times my mind was unnecessarily mean to my body. I really should have celebrated my body at every stage, just as I should celebrate it at this one.”
Much like sensuality, celebration of the body is not a show for others. As the granddaughter of musician Bob Marley, Zuri’s relationship to music has always been linked to a beautiful legacy, with all the accompanying pressures that come with that. Reclaiming music and dance as a personal practice has allowed Zuri to find freedom in the way she moves through the world.
“DJing is my bread and butter at the moment, which I love. Obviously most of my creative outlets are halted right now, but dance and music go hand in hand for me – and dancing has remained an incredible outlet for me through quarantine.”
“Dancing has always kept me happy, stimulated, and energized. In Jamaica, dancing is what we do. We wine and grind and twerk, but it’s not about putting a show on for other people. It’s joy. It feels good. I love that Tik Tok is bringing people back to dancing for fun this year; reclaiming dance as something that everyone can and should do.”
“My relationship with sensuality changed when my body started to change. It’s easy to play into the vixen or traditional images of sensuality when we feel good – but when you feel like the complete opposite of those things, you need to find sensuality in other places. Which is totally possible.”
“Sensuality can come from so many things. I feel sensual when I cook something satisfying. Or when I look at something beautiful. But I find sensuality most when I dance – whether I’m by myself, or someone is lucky enough to be witnessing that movement and energy clicking together all at once. You don’t have to be seducing someone else to feel the depth of that experience.”
“I love making music, but, out of all my creative outlets, it’s the one I’m most self-conscious of, because I come from a family of amazing musicians, yet I’m still working on cracking my own code. It’s a beautiful legacy, but it definitely adds pressure. I haven’t released a song in almost three years, because I had no idea what I was doing when I first started making music. I know more now. So it’s time to reimagine my relationship with music and find spaces where I feel comfortable and heard.”
“I, like many people, have little monkeys in my brain. They’re menacing. They’re jumping on the bed. Every time you take a step forward, they tell you to take ten steps back. They tell me I’m not good enough. That it’s okay to sabotage my health or my goals if that feels good at the moment. You have to get rid of the little monkeys. And that has to come from you, not from others. The moment you stop asking for validation and start trusting yourself, you’re free.”