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'Art saved my life': Daniela Vega on Oscar-winning 'A Fantastic Woman'

The transgender star of the Oscar-tipped drama on her breakthrough role

Helen O’Hara
Written 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.’

‘Game Night’ is in cinemas Fri Mar 2.

Picture credit: Getty Images

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