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When Amber Heard first invited me to join her at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, tears filled my eyes. Heard, an actress, activist and dear friend of mine, asked me to be her L’Oréal “Woman of Worth” at the festival, which has not only launched the careers of many famous creatives, but is also widely recognized as one of the most prestigious red carpet events in the world. For years, I’ve wanted to work with beauty brands that believe in me and support the transgender community, so the opportunity to bring trans visibility to an international audience at this year’s Cannes Film Festival was incredibly uplifting. After much planning and anticipation, I left for Southern France, ready to take on the red carpet and represent transgender women everywhere.
My first day was nothing short of a dream. I sipped espresso in the morning at my star-filled hotel and ate lunch with Amber by the beach. After exploring the French landscape, indulging in a delicious dinner and enjoying a night on the town, I was thoroughly in love with Cannes (pronounced “can” like a “can of beans”).
The next morning, I woke up to find my designated L’Oréal hair and makeup team at my door, ready to make me look and feel my best before a video and photo shoot with Amber. Amber is openly bisexual and I’m openly transgender, so we filmed an exclusive conversation about how we became the women we are today, as well as a discussion about the importance of LGBTQ+ visibility and equality. (And we happened to do so on IDAHOTB—International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.)
Once our L’Oréal shoot wrapped, we enjoyed an incredible meal just outside the city, overlooking the sea. Afterward, Amber and I headed back to our hotel to prepare for the Cannes red carpet. This involved final dress fittings in the L’Oréal Glam Room, followed by my hair and makeup team creating a glamorous evening look for me. At lunch, Amber had gave me the idea to wear bold, graphic eyeliner. I knew that if I was going to take a risk, Cannes would be the place to do it. I pulled inspiration from a previous look Gigi Hadid had rocked, and worked with the team to add some personal flair to it.
When hair and makeup was finished, I rushed back to the Glam Room, which was filled with designer clothes, bags and shoes I got to choose from. (A total dream, but also extremely overwhelming!) I wasn’t sure what look I was going for, but I knew I wanted something ethereal and sexy.
After much deliberation, the design team and I selected an army green Dsquared2 gown that looked like a massive, elegant parachute. I asked the designers if they could cinch the waist and hike up the dress in the front, as these adjustments would accentuate the body I’ve worked so hard for. I wanted to show off my legs—plus, raising the hemline in the front would draw attention to the teal Manolo Blahnik heels I was wearing (yes, they made me feel like Carrie Bradshaw in real life). The team gladly tailored the dress, and after some behind-the-scenes magic, Amber and I were ready for the red carpet.
Together, Amber and I walked down the iconic Hotel Martinez staircase and through the crowd of people taking every photo and video they could. The entire experience felt surreal, and my nerves definitely started to build as we got to the car and headed to the official red carpet. Amber was able to make me feel at ease, but I wanted to make everyone who would see this proud—most of all, I wanted to make my trans sisters proud.
We stepped out of the car and onto the red carpet at the famous Palais des Festivals. For a few minutes (which felt like forever), we waited our turn, as only a few people are allowed on the carpet at a time. Amber started walking first, and I followed about a minute later. Though I still felt anxious, something came over me as I found myself surrounded by cameras. Without thinking about my poses, my facial expressions, my anything—my alter ego took over and I worked it. Amber and I posed separately, then together, and then walked up the theater steps to watch the screening of Dolor Y Gloria (“Pain and Glory”).
The film was incredible, and the crowd erupted in a standing ovation following its final scene. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, but there was a beautiful romance between two men in the film. It made me think about how far we’ve come—audiences are opening themselves up to seeing all kinds of love stories on screen, and I was overwhelmed with happy tears. In that moment, I couldn’t have been more grateful for where my life had led me.
The rest of the evening was spent at a variety of afterparties, and I enjoyed mingling with entertainment’s elite. The experience was a dreamy whirlwind—a true fantasy come to life—and I felt completely in my element through it all. This was a taste of what my life could look like, and I can’t help but crave more of it now.
What empowered me more than the idyllic setting, though, was my drive to represent trans women in the happiest and most beautiful way possible. Walking on such an esteemed red carpet is an honor very few people have, and I am beyond grateful to be one of them. Don’t be mistaken, though; I wasn’t the only transgender woman at the festival. Leyna Bloom became the first transgender lead actress of color to walk the carpet for the premiere of the film she starred in, Port Authority.
Throughout history and as of late, the transgender community has been under attack both on the streets and within the government. Being able to showcase transgender people in a positive, happy, successful way is immensely meaningful to me. If we can walk red carpets, star in TV shows and movies, model for campaigns and do so many other things members of other communities do so frequently, we can do anything. The fact that I was able to feel safe, feel seen—feel like I was being given the same opportunity as other women in an industry that’s been so critical—was extremely affirming. Our world is becoming increasingly accepting of transgender people and our revolution for equality, at least in the entertainment and beauty industries. It was an honor to be at Cannes and work with L’Oréal, but it’s no secret that we need more of this in all areas. Together, we must keep pushing, educating and making strides for the community—both within LGBTQ+ circles and outside of them.