Now that it’s officially the holiday season, I must ask: Is there any gift better than red carpet photos of Zendaya? No, no there is not. And between publicity for Dune this fall and Spider-Man: No Way Home this winter, we have been spoiled (spoiled!) with shots of the 24-year-old star in 2021. Outfit inspo aside, Zendaya and Tom Holland’s body language at a Spider-Man photo call in London on Sunday, Dec. 5 offered us an extra special glimpse into the actors’ (and real-life partners!) chemistry off-screen. While they definitely seemed a little reserved in front of the cameras, they were also pretty flirtatious, and undeniably adorable.
Dating rumors began swirling around these co-stars in 2017, though they only publicly confirmed their relationship in 2021. Although they’re both seasoned in the art of the red carpet walk, Zendaya and Tom didn’t appear to let their guards down entirely. While it’s impossible to know exactly what was running through their heads during this moment, their posture and facial expressions give us some clues.
Elite Daily chatted with Patti Wood, body language expert and author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language & Charisma, to gain insight on Zendaya and Tom’s connection based on their body language.
Zendaya Looks Flirty, But Tom Appears Guarded
In a photo that almost looks like they’re meeting for the first time (which they’re not, obvi), Zendaya’s tilted head and hand-on-heart suggest that she’s feeling simultaneously coquettish and cautious of Tom.
“She does a head tilt, which is a little bit flirty — women tilt their heads to reveal the vulnerable part of the neck, and it’s kind of defined as a ‘come hither’ cue,” says Wood. “It’s interesting, because she’s actually saying ‘come hither,’ but she’s also blocking her heart. The palm of her hand is blocking her heart.” In the world of body language analysis, there are no coincidences — that gesture typically indicates a need to protect yourself.
Oh, and that hand hold? It’s cute, for sure, but Wood says it’s not the most intimate or lustful gesture from either Zendaya or Tom. “The way he has his palm?” Wood points out. “He’s not holding [her hand], he’s not encompassing [it]. There’s nothing sexual in that… [Her] fingers aren’t curling around, there’s no interlacing.”
They Gave Off Mismatched Energies
The red carpet photos also suggest a slight mismatch in their sexual connection, Although Wood notices that Zendaya is giving Holland a “sexy” gaze in many of the photos, it’s not always reciprocated. In fact, he looks pretty tense.
Wood explains that Holland has “erect posture, some tension in his smile, and his hand in his pocket.” Sure, it could be the event making him uncomfortable, but as a successful actor, Holland is no stranger to the red carpet. Wood guesses, “It could be ‘I don’t want to show any sexual connection with her.’” (Fair — he’s in work mode.)
However, this tension wasn’t consistent. In one photo, Holland’s feet and pelvis are tilted toward Zendaya, hinting at his interest in her. And in another, Zendaya and Holland shared an “intimate zone of space” (they’re less than two feet apart). This proximity typically indicates a desire for connection.
Not to mention, they shared a “really nice mutual gaze” during the Spider-Man photocall. With “lifted cheeks” and deep eye contact, Wood flags this look as a “love gaze.” Here, though, Zendaya was the one who looked slightly on edge. “Her heart is pulled back slightly as if to say, ‘I need to protect myself.’”
Their Body Language Might Be An Intentional PR Move
Such a wide range of mixed signals might seem like a bad sign for the couple, but that’s not necessarily accurate. In fact, per Wood, it might be a result of a joint decision that the couple made to keep their romance on the more private side. Wood says that the duo’s body language might reflect “decisions they are making to be independent.”
“I’m seeing her desire to protect, and I’m seeing a little tension in him,” Wood explains. “They’re not ready to be seen as a full couple… Maybe they’re just not quite ready to be seen as a unit.” After all, they are co-workers. Keeping things professional during a work event (because, yes, for A-listers, red carpets are work events) is probably a good policy.
All in all, Zendaya and Holland’s body language is full of contradictions. And although their closeness might not be super obvious in these red carpet photos, there’s no doubting Zendaya and Holland’s connection. During the event, Holland himself explained their relationship to the Associated Press, “The biggest way is just companionship, you know, like two friends coming together, experiencing this world, going through the same problems at the same times, having a shoulder to cry on, has been a huge thing for the pair of us.”
Spider-man and MJ have nothing on these two.