Rachel Zegler was just a regular high school student when she was cast as Maria in West Side Story through an open casting call and suddenly found herself shot to stardom – quickly earning herself a reputation as Hollywood’s newest darling.
However, the tides turned for her after she was cast in the Snow White remake and she began slamming the original animated film during interviews.
The 22-year-old actress revealed she ‘hated’ Disney’s original 1937 classic and its ‘stalker’ Prince – whose ‘weird’ storyline won’t feature in the new movie – in a series of interviews that have sparked anger on social media.
She has also said the film would be going in a new direction, stating: ‘She’s not going to be saved by the prince and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love.’
Rachel Zegler was just a regular high school student when she shot up to stardom. Pictured here with Gal Gadot in 2022
Zegler has been slammed from both sides for both perpetuating ‘woke’ culture and for being a ‘fake’ feminist.
She was also criticized by haters for playing Snow White as a Latina. Both she and Disney addressed this backlash and defended the decision.
Additionally, she slammed her movie, Shazam! Fury Of The Gods, by claiming she only took the role because she ‘needed a job.’
While she eagerly anticipates the release of her upcoming films – The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds And Snakes, and Snow White – her disparaging comments about the original film may have a negative impact at the box office.
PR expert Nick Ede agrees and told DailyMail.com that perhaps Rachel ‘isn’t the best person to promote the film’ – despite playing the main character because she has ‘actively chosen to spoil the narrative.’
Here’s how Zegler went from being a Hollywood darling to getting a reputation for stirring up controversy.
Rachel Zegler was a high school student from New Jersey before she landed the lead in West Side Story
Rachel (pictured in the West Side Story), 20, was chosen from 30,000 applicants after responding to a casting call on social media for Latino and Latina actors in January 2018
Before finding fame, Rachel, whose mother Gina is Colombian and construction worker father is Polish, worked as a part-time wedding singer and was an honor roll student.
The American actress, from New Jersey, who was cast alongside Ansel Elgort as Tony, landed the coveted role after submitting a video of herself singing one of the 1957 musical’s most well-known songs, I Feel Pretty, in Spanish to producers.
Rachel, 20, was chosen from 30,000 applicants after responding to a casting call on social media for Latino and Latina actors in January 2018.
In January 2019, she learned she’d scored the part of Maria in the 2021 remake – but first, she was starring as Fiona in her Immaculate Conception High School’s production of Shrek The Musical that March.
She played Maria in Steven Spielberg’s lauded West Side Story remake
Rachel was an honors student who lives in Clifton, New Jersey, with father Craig, mother Gina and 20-year-old sister Jacqueline
The day after her last performance, the then 17-year-old was already at work for her first West Side Story rehearsal.
Even after two months of rehearsing, she was a nervous wreck the night before her first day of filming.
‘I texted [a friend]: “I think I’m going to vomit. I’ll check back with you later.” I could not sleep, could not anything. I was just… Oh my god, terrified,’ she said.
Asked about getting the part, which she describes as, ‘a fairytale come true,’ she reveals: ‘I manifested working on the film – I always had a picture of the original film in my locker at high school.
Lucky break: ‘30,000 people went for the role, and I had nine auditions – no job is worth that but this one was!’
‘Thirty-thousand people went for the role, and I had nine auditions – no job is worth that but this one was!’
And even the late composer, Stephen Sondheim, said she sang ‘like a nightingale’ – and yet Rachel has admitted she was still having trouble believing all the hype and her overnight rise to fame left her struggling with ‘a lot of imposter syndrome.’
In August 2021, Rachel told Town & Country about her battle with imposter syndrome, which was the belief that one’s own success in life wasn’t deserved or was achieved through luck, rather than as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.
‘I haven’t done any other film projects, but I’m constantly pinching myself – there’s no way this is my life,’ she said. ‘That comes with a lot of gratitude and a lot of anxiety and a lot of impostor syndrome.’
Fans were outraged when Zegler wasn’t invited to the Oscars
After she initially wasn’t invited to the Oscars, she was asked to present
Fans were shocked and disappointed when the West Side Story star revealed she wasn’t invited to the Oscars despite being nominated seven times.
She revealed the shocking fact on Instagram when a fan commented on her potential Oscar night attire.
‘Can’t wait to see what you’ll be wearing on Oscar night,’ they said, to which she responded: ‘I’m not invited so sweatpants and my boyfriend’s flannel.’
‘I will root for West Side Story from my couch and be proud of the work we so tirelessly did 3 years ago,’ she added.
The New Jersey native revealed she would be attending the Oscars after all
Glam: Rachel Zegler wowed at the Academy Awards after shockingly revealing she had not been invited to the show
She posted on Instagram a few days later that she tried to go, but it didn’t ‘seem to be happening’ and that she would be rooting for West Side Story from her couch.
‘I hope some last minute miracle occurs and I can celebrate our film in person but hey, that’s how it goes sometimes, I guess,’ Zegler continued on Instagram.
‘Thanks for all the shock and outrage – I’m disappointed, too. But that’s OK. So proud of our movie.’
Eventually, the Disney team found a loophole and were able to get her to the Oscars as a presenter.
She wrote: ‘well folks, i can’t believe i’m saying this but… see you on sunday! the absolutely incredible team at @Disney and our snow white producers worked some real-life magic, and i am thrilled to be able to celebrate my @westsidemovie fam at the oscars (sic).’
Actress slammed movie Shazam! Fury Of The Gods – claiming she only did it because she ‘needed a job’
While talking to The Hollywood Reporter at the premiere of Shazam!, the star got honest about how she ended up joining the DC universe because she ‘needed a job’
Snow White isn’t the first time that Zegler slammed a film she was in.
While talking to The Hollywood Reporter at the premiere of Shazam!, the star got honest about how she ended up joining the DC universe.
She said she ‘needed a job’ before adding: ‘I’m being so serious.’
‘The reality is we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I was not working and I couldn’t get a job for the life of me, because West Side Story hadn’t come out yet,’ she confessed. ‘It was really hard to book work for me.’
Unfortunately the film bombed at the box office.
However, Zegler did a 180 and defended the film on social media
It was also slammed by critics with a 49 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, Zegler did a 180 and defended the film on social media.
‘Some people out there and just being… senselessly mean. And it’s unnecessary. And I know, I know, “If you can’t handle the heat…” and all that nonsense, and you’re right,’ she posted.
‘But our film is actually very good, it’s just cool to hate on fun nowadays. That’s okay. We’re good.’
Zegler faced hate for being cast as Snow White as a Latina actress
Transformation: The 22-year-old actress will play the Disney Princess in the upcoming live action remake
Zegler faced backlash right off the bat when she was announced as Snow White in the upcoming Disney live-action remake.
Trolls slammed the actress for being Latina when Disney’s animated portrayal of Snow White was German.
The actress responded to the hate in full force.
‘yes i am snow white no i am not bleaching my skin for the role (sic),’ she wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
Marc Webb, director of the Snow White adaptation, also defended the casting decision, saying that Rachel’s ‘strength, intelligence and optimism’ made her the right choice for the iconic role.
‘Rachel’s extraordinary vocal abilities are just the beginning of her gifts,’ he said in a statement to AFP.
‘Her strength, intelligence and optimism will become an integral part of rediscovering the joy in this classic Disney fairytale.’
The New Jersey native slammed the original Snow White and said it was ‘weird’ the Prince ‘stalked’ the iconic Disney Princess
In an interview with Variety, Zegler (left) also said she would not be portraying the beloved character the way she was seen in the 1937 cartoon
Zegler may defended herself as the right choice for Snow White but as press began for the film, she ended up admitting she wasn’t a huge fan of the role or the original movie as a whole.
During a brief interview on a red carpet with entertainment news outlet Extra TV, the young star was asked how her version of Snow White was going to be different.
‘The original cartoon came out in 1937 and very evidently so. There’s a big focus on her love story with the guy who literally stalks her. Weird, weird,’ she said.
‘So we didn’t do that this time.’
Dynamic duo: Zegler stars alongside Gal Gadot who will take on the role of the Evil Queen
Extra TV’s reporter tried to answer if that meant the Prince had been totally removed from Disney’s live action remake.
‘We have a different approach to what I’m sure a lot of people will assume is a love story just because we casted a guy in the movie,’ Zegler responded.
‘It’s one of those thing that I think everyone’s going to have their assumptions about what it’s actually going to be, but it’s really not about the love story at all, which is really, really wonderful.’
In a separate interview with Variety, Zegler also said she would not be playing the beloved character in the same way she was portrayed in the 1937 cartoon.
In a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, again sitting alongside Gadot, Zegler said the original was ‘extremely dated when it comes to women being in roles of power’
Speaking alongside costar Gal Gadot – who had taken on the role of the Evil Queen – Zegler said her Snow White was ‘not going to be saved by the prince’ and was not someone who was ‘going to be dreaming about true love.’
‘She’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave, and true,’ she added.
In a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, again sitting alongside Gadot, Zegler said the original was ‘extremely dated when it comes to women being in roles of power’, telling the reporter that she had only watched it once.
She faced bitter backlash for being ‘too woke’ AND a ‘fake feminist’
Not impressed: Snow White star Rachel Zegler has stirred fresh controversy after several videos of her trashing the original cartoon version of the movie resurfaced online
Zegler faced backlash on both sides for slamming the Disney princess.
Conservatives slammed her for trying to make the new Snow White movie a ‘woke’ statement.
Meanwhile, others felt that with her attempt to be a feminist, Zegler was actually doing quite the opposite.
In one video that was posted on TikTok, user Angie, who goes by the handle @cosywithangie, criticized Zegler for failing to acknowledge that women have the right to pursue whatever they want.
Angie captioned the post: ‘Just because a woman values something different, does not make her any less valuable. Some women want a career and not marriage.
‘Some women want a marriage or family and not a job. Some women want BOTH. All are to be heard, and seen, and valued.
‘Write stories about ALL women and depict them ALL as valuable and worthy, instead of trying to mold them into one specific image of what you deem worthy. Thank you. #snowwhite #snowwhiteliveaction #snowwhitecontroversy #disney,’ she added.
Backlash: TikTok user Angie criticized Rachel for failing to acknowledge that women have the right to pursue whatever they want
Angie’s video then showed Zegler’s comments from her Variety interview.
The TikTok user then said: ‘I could literally write a PhD thesis on the pseudo feminism that is criticizing Disney Princesses. Criticizing Disney Princesses is not feminist.
‘Not every woman is a leader, not every woman wants to be a leader, not every woman wants or craves power, and that’s okay.’
She continued: ‘It is not anti-feminist to want to fall in love, to want to get married, to want to stay at home, to want to be a homemaker. None of these things make you less valuable as a person or a woman.’
TikTok user @nuttybutter96 shared snippets of Zegler’s interview with Extra TV and questioned why Zegler was being ‘so smug.’
The user captioned her post: ‘If you hate the original this much, why would you want to make the remake. Pls make it make sense….’
‘I don’t think I have ever seen such a condescending, smug Disney Princess ever in my life,’ they admitted in the clip.
‘It’s just every single interview I have seen her do for this movie is just so, so smug and condescending. Is she supposed to be uplifting us as women? Because it sounds f***ing terrible and I don’t wanna be included in that part of womanhood.’
Manish Dutt Mishra is an accomplished journalist and the Executive Editor at Elite News, a position he has held since 2021. With a wealth of experience in the media industry, Manish brings a unique perspective and a strong editorial vision to his role.