There is a current crop of incredibly talented Native actresses and actors who are making serious noise in Hollywood. Don’t get me wrong: there’s always been very talented actresses and actors in Hollywood going back over 100 years. The recent interest in Daughter of Dawn, with Esther LaBarre, White Parke and Lily Gladstone, shows that Native talent has always been there. There just has always been a historic lack of sufficient roles.
Many of them are getting roles now. And killing it.
One of the sisters who is killing it is Blackfeet actress Lily Gladstone.
Her movie, Certain Women (Out right now! Go support it!) is being talked about in Oscar discussions and is being commended for all of the powerful women who act in it. But even within that pantheon of amazing women, Lily’s performance is creating the most noise. I’m not sure that I could characterize all of the accolades that Lily is currently receiving in a more effective way than the many, many publications that are singing those praises. Therefore, I’m gonna just list a few of them, along with where they came from so that you can see for yourself.
The acting pedigree on Certain Women, Kelly Reichardt’s quietly devastating portrait of isolated womanhood, is nothing if not impressive: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart can each claim with good reason to be one of best actresses working in film today. If Reichardt’s picture tells us anything, though, it’s that we may need to make room in that ranking for Lily Gladstone, the fourth member of their company, who turns in the film’s best performance as a lonely rancher named Jamie.
Rolling Stone also got in on the act, recognizing Lily’s singularly powerful appearance:
Kelly Reichert's triptych of Maile Meloy short stories about women in Montana weaves together three generations of incredible American actresses (represented here by Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart). But it's newcomer Lily Gladstone, playing a lonely farmhand who grows smitten with her town's newest night school teacher (Stewart), who steals the show. Warm, silent and just as confused by her heart as we are, Gladstone's gentle turn reveals a talent who can hint at greater depths of feeling than most performers could ever hope to show.
Vogue called Lily’s performance one of the very best of 2016 and compared her vulnerable and gutsy performance to Jennifer Lawrence:
Like Jennifer Lawrence, Gladstone can convey deep emotion silently, without seeming to do anything. Here, her character’s yearning and fragility is almost painful to watch, but watch it we do.
Really, there’s not much that I can add other than that she is just as interesting off-screen as she is on. Whether it’s teaching acting classes to Native youth, pontificating about super-duper spicy Thai food (she really likes it that spicy), or being “introduced” several times in movies, she’s just fascinating. And smart. And funny. And beautiful. And sweet.
We can be aspirational and say, “She’s someone to keep your eye on.” That would be the modest thing, the humble thing. Or we can be extremely honest and say, “Native people have got a freakin’ star on their hands. Everyone knows it—Vogue knows it, Paste Magazine knows it, Rolling Stone knows it. Sundance knows it, and pretty soon the Golden Globes and Oscars might know it.
A bonafide star.
It’s time that we know it too. Personally, I believe that we gotta support our stars and help them get to the next level of stardom. I think it’s healthy to give our children a multitude of careers and goals they can aspire to—doctors, lawyers, teachers, traditional people, linguists, actors/actresses, etc etc. But pop culture is important and I’m thankful when we have healthy and positive people in those pop culture positions. Like Lily. Therefore I have a couple of favors to ask: friends, can we go watch her new movie “Certain Women?” Also, can every single one of you follow Lily on her social media:
She’s here. She’s one of us. It’s a great moment and let’s just enjoy this ride with our sister.
Here’s a few more interviews where you can familiarize yourself with her work:
From Breakdances With Wolves Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/breakdanceswithwolves/ep-14-with-actress-and-artist-lily-gladstone
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories