"Art saved my life": Daniela Vega on Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman
The transgender star of the Oscar-tipped drama on her breakthrough role
By Helen O’Hara|
Oscar-winning Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman is many things: a magical-realist look at grief, an intense character study and a powerful depiction of life as a trans person. It’s also a showcase for newcomer Daniela Vega, a Santiago-born singer-turned-actress who captivates as a woman whose happiness is shattered when her older lover dies suddenly. We sat down with her to chat about the film and her life as a trans woman.
How did you get involved in the film? [Director] Sebastián Lelio got in touch with the idea. He wanted to make a film about a trans person, and I initially came on as a consultant. It was only when he posted me the script that I realised it was for me.
Have you been surprised by the reception? I thought we’d get love, but I didn’t expect such an explosion. The big festivals I’ve been to, like Toronto and Berlin, or the small ones like Havana, they all have a special poetry. I think this film has its own life now and we’re going to follow it where it takes us. What I’d really like is for it to show people a little bit of love and light in this time of darkness.
Have you had much reaction from the trans community? I think the film has not only connected with trans people but with people who did not know about the trans community. It’s very beautiful… I once saw art as a way of saving my life and now I can see that art can save the life of others.
In what way did art save your life? When I was 14, I realised I wanted to make the transition – it took me until I was 17. At that time, trans people had no chances: I couldn’t go to university; I couldn’t sing; I couldn’t do anything. That was 2006, when I finished school. There was no possibility of doing anything about it and during those years I got depressed and spiralled into darkness. In 2009 came the possibility of starting a career in art. It was like spring came back to me.
You’re primarily a singer, but do you plan to carry on acting? Yes, of course! But I don’t know if the plane will crash on the way back to Chile, so I don’t know! Life surprises you so much, and the future isn’t guaranteed.
A Fantastic Woman is now in cinemas, only at Major Cineplex cinemas and House RCA
A quietly devastating story of prejudice that often seems powered solely via the infinitesimal nuances of its lead actor, startling newcomer (and the country’s first transgender film star) Daniela Vega.