Cleopatra Coleman is gearing up for the release of In the Shadow of the Moon, a sci-fi political thriller premiering on Netflix in which she stars alongside Narcos actor Boyd Holbrook and Dexter’s Michael C. Hall. It’s nothing new for the self-proclaimed “big-time sci-fi fan.” Last year, the 31-year-old Australian actress appeared in Hover, an environmental sci-fi thriller that Coleman also wrote and produced.
“It’s funny because you can be a fan of a genre and not necessarily work in it,” she says. “I’ve been really lucky that even Last Man on Earth, the comedy I did for four years, was a sci-fi comedy. I love sci-fi comedy. I love sci-fi thriller, and, obviously, I wrote one. I have more in the pipeline. I just think that sci-fi has a really rich history of championing people of color. As I always say, it’s just a great way to hold a mirror up to society but with enough fantasy so that the message isn’t too heavy-handed. It can be enjoyable, and then you can receive the message while being entertained.”
This idea of rich histories and fantasy is also reflected in what Coleman chooses to wear. But instead of looking to dystopian futures, the actress mines the past. She adores vintage, anything with “good energy” and a story of its own.
“I have this garnet ring that’s from the 1800’s, and it was a gentleman’s pen that has two snakes wrapping around the garnet stone,” she says. “I mean it’s just so cool for me because I know some guy in the 1800’s was wearing it on his jacket, on his lapel. And the two snakes tell us that either he worked in alchemy or medicine or the ring was given to him by a lover because sometimes two snakes represent two lovers. So I just love the idea of this piece. It’s come so far, and now it’s on my hand. It’s just so cool to me.”
Her closet consists of vintage nightgowns, a 1990’s chocolate-colored Hermès suit, a jacket made in Bali, and, surprisingly, an H&M sequined gold velour jacket that she picked up at Los Angeles’s Wasteland when she first moved to the city years ago.
“I have never worn it, not one time, but I cannot bring myself to get rid of it because I just remember how excited I was when I found it,” she says. “To me, it’s so loud and it sort of speaks to, I guess, my groove when I first moved to L.A. I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be in this city and how I was going to get by. But it also felt really crazy and really fun, and I feel like that’s the energy that jacket sends to me.”
Coleman’s obsession with the jacket, her unwillingness to part with something that’s so much a part of her history, is understandable. Moving halfway around the world is no easy feat, and discovering who you are in a whole new place presents its own challenges. But the actress is used to finding her way as an outsider looking in.
“I’m an outlier,” she says. “I was raised in Australia. There are not many people who look like me or my mother there. My mom’s Jamaican, and my dad’s Scottish. I was forced to get really strong in who I was because I didn’t have anyone else like me to look to. Not even in media really, not even in magazines or on commercials or on television or film, unless they were international films.”
Yet Coleman believes that being an outlier can become a kind of superpower. “It creates so much strength, even though at times it’s difficult,” she explains. “But you got to hang in there because it pays massive dividends—just being a strong person and loving yourself and not compromising yourself to fit in. It makes you, I think, more beautiful, more understanding of others, more empathetic, and that only feeds my humanity and my ability to understand the world around me and what other people go through.”
Photography: Daniel Castrillon Styling: Marielle Bobo Hair: Stephen Hudson/Ken Barboza.com Makeup: Keita Moore/The Only Agency.
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