Elle’s annual Women In Hollywood issues are here, a collection of nine cover features that reads like potential ballots for the Oscars. Best Actress hopefuls Lily Gladstone, Greta Lee, and Fantasia Barrino Taylor are among the featured profiles, as are Best Supporting Actress contenders Danielle Brooks, Taraji P. Henson, Jodie Foster (for Nyad, and were she not Jodie Foster, she’d be a long shot), and America Ferrera. Eva Longoria is another cover star after making her feature directorial debut with Flamin’ Hot this year, and Jennifer Lopez, on the cusp of releasing new music and a concept film, rounds out the roster.
My favorite of the covers is Fantasia, it’s so striking with the colors and the dramatic gown.
Unlike Variety, Elle understands that Lily Gladstone is a goddamned star, and her photoshoot with Mark Seliger is glamorous and evocative and now I desperately want someone to cast Gladstone as a femme fatale and just let her smolder at a camera for two hours. The interview, conducted by Terese Marie Mailhot, is equally good—I have yet read a boring profile of Lily Gladstone.
But Greta Lee’s interview killed me. Greta Lee is forty. She’s been in a lot of things, like Russian Doll and The Morning Show and Miracle Workers, but she is only just now breaking out with Past Lives. People have said she is having her moment “later in life” (devastating to hear for this fellow forty-year-old), and in response to only now getting a lead role worthy of her (incredible) talent, she had this to say:
“I want to work until I’m 100 years old. […] I want to outlive everyone to make up for all that lost time—all those years of sitting and just watching […] the people who had access to all the things, all the opportunities that I didn’t.”
Absolutely gutting statement, but a stark example of the cost of inequitable access. Greta Lee has been working steadily, it’s not like there was NO opportunity, but you watch her in Past Lives and can’t help but wonder—where have you been? It’s the same feeling I had watching Lily Gladstone in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, the feeling that this talent is too big to go unnoticed, and there’s really only one explanation for why these tremendously talented actors are only now catching mainstream attention “later in life” (Gladstone is thirty-seven). The opportunities just weren’t there, and now that they are, I hope both women continue to find good roles that fully showcase what they can do.
This is an excellent group of women to highlight at the end of 2023, women who have defined the year in film—well, not so much Jodie Foster, let’s not pretend Nyad set the world on fire, she’s here because she’s Jodie Foster—and pop culture. And at least Elle got it right with Lily Gladstone, anyone underestimating her does so at their own peril. It’s a competitive year and nothing is assured but putting her and Greta Lee on the cover(s) of your magazine is a good start.