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All About Zoe Saldaña's Parents, Asalia Nazario and Aridio Saldaña

Zoe Saldaña’s parents, Asalia Nazario and Aridio Saldaña, had three daughters together before Aridio’s death in 1987

<p>Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic ; Zoe Saldana Instagram</p> Zoe Saldana and mother Asalia arrive at the 2010 Crystal + Lucy Awards A New Era on June 1, 2010 in Century City, California. ; Zoe Saldana

Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic ; Zoe Saldana Instagram

Zoe Saldana and mother Asalia arrive at the 2010 Crystal + Lucy Awards A New Era on June 1, 2010 in Century City, California. ; Zoe Saldana's father Aridio Saldana.

Zoe Saldaña credits her parents, Asalia Nazario and Aridio Saldaña, with giving her a strong work ethic and an even stronger sense of self-confidence.

The actress was born in New Jersey on June 19, 1978, to a Puerto Rican mother and a Dominican father. As a first generation American, Zoe faced challenges, but her family was always there to help guide her.

“I had what others may not have had: I have been exceptionally loved by imperfect people,” she told Net-A-Porter. Zoe was raised in a bilingual household, speaking both English and Spanish at home, and “in an environment where everything was [geared] towards education.”

Along with her Afro-Latina heritage, her parents gave her and her sisters a confident outlook. “Growing up, I was taught to believe that I am capable to do anything a man can do,” she told E! News. “This family philosophy has shaped who I am today, and is a conviction that will always accompany me through life.”

Related: Zoe Saldaña's 2 Sisters: All About Cisely and Mariel

For the first 10 years of her life, Zoe lived in Queens, New York, with her parents and two sisters, but then tragedy struck in 1987 when Aridio died unexpectedly.

“My father was amazing,” she said in the first episode of her AOL Series, Zoe Saldaña Presents My Hero. The actress added, “When we lost him, it was hard. It was very, very tragic. He was a really good guy.”

Following his death, Asalia sent Zoe and her sisters to live with relatives in the Dominican Republic, while she stayed in New York trying to earn enough money to support the family. “It gave her more strength to keep doing, and keep making all the sacrifices she was doing,” she said, citing her mom as her biggest inspiration.

Here’s everything to know about Zoe Saldaña's parents, Asalia Nazario and Aridio Saldaña.

Zoe's parents Asalia and Aridio welcomed three daughters

<p>Zoe Saldana Instagram</p> Zoe Saldana and family.

Zoe Saldana Instagram

Zoe Saldana and family.

Throughout their relationship, Asalia and Aridio welcomed three children: Mariel, Zoe and Cisely.

After the Avatar actress grew up being tight-knit with her sisters, they started a business together, Cinestar Pictures, a production company focused on telling female stories.

“Respect is the platform to having a good friendship with your siblings,” Zoe said in a Cinestar YouTube video.

“We really protect our nuclear family. Without that, we’re broken,” Cisely added.

Since then, their family tree has continued to grow. Mariel, the oldest, has two children of her own: Eli and Kasey. Zoe is also a mom, as she and her husband, Marco Perego, share three sons: twins Cy and Bowie and Zen.

Related: Zoë Saldana and Marco Perego's Relationship Timeline

Zoe's dad died when she was a child

At the age of 9, Zoe lost her father. In 1987, Aridio was killed in a car accident. Speaking to Emmy magazine,  the actress opened up about that day and learning of her dad’s death from her grandmother.

“I remember her drinking coffee and saying, ‘We're going to get through this. Papa wants us to get through this. But please understand this part of life: death came knocking and took one of us,’ ” she shared.

Zoe went on to describe the impact on their family, saying, “Losing our hero, the strongest person in the room, who walked on water, and then seeing how our gorgeous, strong mom just fell apart and couldn’t get out of bed to take us to school.”

As a result, part of her childhood was marked with sadness. “Everything that should have been super-colorful and bright became grey. I learnt about the fragility of life early,” she told Marie Claire.

Zoe's mom sent her and her sisters to the Dominican Republic after their dad's death

<p>Zoe Saldana Instagram</p> Zoe Saldana and her mom Asalia Nazario.

Zoe Saldana Instagram

Zoe Saldana and her mom Asalia Nazario.

Following the death of their father, Zoe and her sisters went to live with their grandparents in the Dominican Republic while their mother stayed behind in New York. Dealing with all of these changes, along with their grief, proved difficult.

“There's no winter, no Santa Claus, no grapes or apples — it's mango and guavas,” Zoe told Emmy magazine. “Everything was always new and changing, changing, changing. These sound like small things, but they add up in a day. It was hard.”

During that time, Asalia stayed behind in the U.S. working two jobs — as a courtroom translator and a hotel maid — to provide for the family, according to Allure.

“Our mom, being a single parent, didn’t want us to grow up in a dangerous place, so she moved us to the Dominican Republic,” Zoe explained to W magazine. “[She] would live with us there for one year and then spend one year in New York so she could make money to send back home for us.”

Despite how hard it was for them, Zoe admires her mother for everything she did, and acknowledges the sacrifices she made to give her daughters a better life.

“New York was not a good place to be raising kids in the late 1980s and 1990s,” she said in an interview with The Telegraph. “She made the best decision — we are here because of that decision.”

Zoe cites her mother Asalia as her hero

<p>Zoe Saldana Instagram</p> Zoe Saldana and her mom Asalia Nazario.

Zoe Saldana Instagram

Zoe Saldana and her mom Asalia Nazario.

In 2014, Zoe and her sisters created an AOL original web series titled Zoe Saldaña Presents My Hero. The series focused on celebrities and the people who inspired them. Each of the 10 episodes followed one celebrity as they paid tribute to someone special in their life.

The first episode centered around Zoe, who expressed her admiration toward her mom. Speaking about the series to Entertainment Weekly, the actress said that there was no question as to who she would name as her hero.

“As a parent, she put us first — and we lost a parent, so she had to become those two anchors in our lives,” she explained. “She’s not perfect, but she always did her best, and that’s something that’s worth recognizing.”

Zoe went on to praise Asalia for allowing her and her sisters to learn and grow. “[She] really let us find our own voice,” she said. “My mom never manipulated us to become something that she wanted us to become because it was better for her.”

During the episode, Zoe also opened up about losing her father and how it affected her mother.

“It was harder for my mom. It took her a couple of years to sort of get out of that spell,” she said. “You would see it in her face, that she was defeated. She just felt defeated.”

But rather than give in to her grief, Asalia was determined to provide the best life for her daughters. “She would just keep walking, one foot in front of the other,” Zoe said. “My mom was just really trying to make ends meet, and we had to really become each other’s emotional support.”

“I’ve never met anybody with the strength that my mom has,” the actress continued, noting that although she could be “strict” and “stern” at times, she was also “such a loving, flexible mother.”

Zoe's mom eventually remarried

<p>Cisely Saldana Instagram</p> Zoe Saldana with her sisters Cisely and Mariel and parents Asalia Nazario and Dagoberto Galan.

Cisely Saldana Instagram

Zoe Saldana with her sisters Cisely and Mariel and parents Asalia Nazario and Dagoberto Galan.

Although it was hard for her after Aridio died, Asalia did find love again. She married a Dominican man named Dagoberto Galán. It’s not clear when exactly the two wed, but Galán has become a part of the family. In fact, Zoe considers him another father.

“My dad Dagoberto Galán has been a lifesaver to all of us,” she once told The Huffington Post. “His patience, wisdom and sense of humor keeps all the women in my family sane.”

She continued, “There is a reason I don't call him my stepfather but my dad, because since day one that's what he's been to my sisters and I — a father. He's our kind of crazy beautiful!”

Zoe finds ways to honor and remember her dad

Galán might be a strong father figure in her life, but Zoe still finds ways to keep Aridio’s memory alive.

During an interview with The Telegraph, she shared some of her favorite things to remember about her dad.

“He was very possessive of his daughters,” she said. “And he had the best laugh. He laughed with an open mouth: my sisters and I are told that we laugh that way. You would never think the way I laugh belongs to my body. I laugh like an old Latino man.”

The actress also honored Aridio when she became a mom. In November of 2014, she and Perego welcomed twin boys, Cy Aridio and Bowie Ezio. The couple chose their middle names after their grandfathers. (Ezio is Perego’s father’s name.)

Related: Zoe Saldaña's 3 Kids: Everything She's Said About Parenting

Asalia has had a huge influence on Zoe’s career

After her father died, Zoe started taking dance classes and studying ballet in the Dominican Republic. “My mother was trying to find ways to keep us busy,” she told Time. “That saved my sanity. It really put me on this path of being an artist.”

Those early dance lessons came in handy when she started acting, as she starred as a ballet dancer in her debut film, Center Stage.

Zoe later went on to star in various science-fiction films. “I have to say, the sci-fi inclination that I have unconsciously came from her,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “My mom used to love reading about 2001: A Space Odyssey, and [was] just always curious about the unknown — not questioning, but wondering. And she gave my sisters and I that.”

Still, Zoe has joked in the past that her mom doesn’t always remember what roles she plays.

During an appearance on The Late Show with James Corden in 2019, Zoe joked that Asalia often confuses her with a different actress: Thandiwe Newton, saying, “My mom still thinks I’m in Westworld.

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