While Zendaya has dealt with fame for years due to her Disney Channel child stardom, the shift to being a grown-up, massively successful A-list celeb has come with some growing pains: namely, navigating paparazzi and greatly reduced privacy.

Zendaya spoke to ELLE about when she noticed her day-to-day life shifting, pinpointing it to spring 2022, when she was filming The Challengers in Boston. She also explained why she has continued to keep her relationship with Spider-Man co-star Tom Holland as private as possible, admitting that they accept that they cannot hide everything.

preview for Zendaya and Tom Holland’s Relationship Timeline

Zendaya had been asked about a May 2023 photo of her and Holland on a boat ride in Venice, and if the interest coming from fans admiring their relationship helps make it a little easier to accept.

“Parts of my life, I accept, are going to be public,” she replied. “I can’t not be a person and live my life and love the person I love. But also, I do have control over what I choose to share. It’s about protecting the peace and letting things be your own but also not being afraid to exist. You can’t hide. That’s not fun, either. I am navigating it more than ever now.”

Regarding the attention shift, Zendaya explained that she noticed “after the last Spider-Man and the last season of Euphoria, there was a visceral change. Before, I could get away with going places and getting in and out. But in Boston [last spring], I would end up going right back home, because it was really overstimulating. Everybody would go hang out at a bar or something, and I’d be like, ‘I’d love to, but I think I could ruin everybody’s night. Because it’s just not going to be fun once I’m there.’”

She continued to test the boundaries of what she can do publicly on that Venice trip, where she was photographed walking her dog, Noon. “I had this idea of, like, I can walk around Venice. No, I can’t,” she said with a laugh. “I had to pick up his poo, and I was like, Lord, please, don’t take a picture of me picking up my dog’s shit. There’s a picture of me holding the bag, but thankfully they spared the grabbing and the putting it in the bag part.”

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Alyssa Bailey
Senior News and Strategy Editor

Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she's not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.