Janicza Bravo | Apiece Apart Woman

Janicza Bravo wears a dark outfit with a light hat.

Photos by Ye Rin Mok | Styling by Jill Losquadro

The creative voices we always come back to are often the ones that merge the unexpected: The vision of director Janicza Bravo is no exception. Through her storytelling, Janicza creates films that combine sharp references, idiosyncratic nuance, and genre-bending surreality with a heart for the unlikely hero and realized purpose.


Janicza has been directing and writing since she was in college — and since we discovered her work following her 2016 debut feature “Lemon,” we’ve been inspired by her career as she’s contributed creative voice to episodes of shows like “Atlanta” and “Love.” Her newest feature film, ZOLA, which debuted at Sundance and will be released by A24 films this year, is based off a 2015 viral saga of sex trafficking and kidnapping as recounted by Detroit waitress and stripper Aziah “Zola” Wells in 148 rapid-fire Tweets. It’s a surprising vehicle for a story about personal agency, but one we’re fully here for. 


Below, a conversation about the creative process, learning to celebrate the wins, analog modes of meditation and more in our morning (and mini trampoline-jumping interlude) with Janicza in Los Angeles. 

Two images. In the first, Janicza Bravo wears a blue top and light hat. In the second, Janicza Bravo jumps on a trampoline.

Me in six sentences:


"I am a filmmaker, born in New York. I’m first generation — my parents are Panamanian. I grew up alone...my parents got together when I was 12, but weren't together when I arrived.


Growing up, I ran track and field and wanted to go to the Olympics. [That dream ended when] I had surgery as a teenager and instead, I went to NYU to be an actress. My freshman year, I found directing."

Janicza Bravo stands with her back to the window, illuminated by the sun.

On keeping a few pots on the stove:


"A film is a constantly evolving organism and the road is long. Most things you see on television or at the movies didn’t get there in a few beats. It may seem like that from the outside, but on the inside it’s taken years, and so much never gets to see the light of day.


This work involves a good deal of heartbreak so I try to fall in love with a few things to better my chances."

Janicza Bravo wears a light blue outfit and stands next to a counter.

On process:


"My relationship to process is a lot like my relationship to meditation. I think about it a lot but don’t actually do it so much. I procrastinate and spend a good deal of time feeling bad about that.


I have bursts where I get a lot of creative work done...I’m in a dip at the moment but I just worked on a film for three years so I’m trying to be kind to myself."

Two images of Janicza Bravo wearing a light brown outfit.

Something that’s overrated: Arriving first.


Something that’s underrated: Arriving at all. 

Janicza Bravo wears a blue top and light brown hat, facing away from the camera.

On transition:


"I’m doing the work I’d dreamed of, finally...and I’m teaching myself to enjoy it all more. I don’t celebrate the wins as much as I ought to.


I’m nearing 40. I’m close to two years out of a relationship I’d been in for the last ten, and am now dating someone 14 years my junior. I'm realizing I need to move out of my apartment....I’ve been here eight or nine years, but I built this space with my last partner and in some ways I don’t feel like I can wholly step into my next chapter until I physically leave the last one."

Janicza Bravo wears a light blue outfit and stands next to a book shelf.

An unexpected meditation or inspiration source:


I do daily picture research as meditation. I have a collection of about 10,000 images. 




My wardrobe “workhorse”:


I own about 15 striped shirts and could own more; I feel held in horizontal stripes.




Five books I love:


Little Birds, Anais Nin

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love, Kathleen Collins

Williard and His Bowling Trophies, Richard Brautigan 

Magical Negro, Morgan Parker

Middle Passage, James Hollis

Janicza Bravo wears a light blue outfit and stands behind a table.

My go-to, easy meal I make for myself…


I’ve eaten out for the last three years and I feel a bit like a dinosaur when it comes to home cooking. I like it and I want to...but I don't. It’s just a bit unrealistic for me to maintain with my work.


I am a fan of fried green plantains, which I have at least once a week. And I tend to make breakfast.




The beauty + wellness hacks I swear by:


Fresh aloe. I buy it and store it in the fridge and do a mask 3-5 times a week for about 20-30 minutes.


I went green with my beauty products about seven years ago after reading "No More Dirty Looks." I had an immediate panic and threw almost everything out. The one thing I couldn't and haven't given up is red lipstick: MAC's "Ruby Woo" is truly the best. I am constantly on the hunt for a clean red but nothing compares.


I bought Vitner's Daughter, a super fancy face oil, after trying mini samples for two years. I wanted so badly for it to be fake. I'm sad to report: it’s genius. It’s the most luxe thing to ever go on my skin and it is absolutely divine.