If you haven't already heard of her or her film, you most certainly will after the 2018 Oscars, where her movie is up for Best Foreign Film. So who is Daniela Vega and where else can you watch all of her work? Vega is a 28-year-old Chilean actress and the star of the Sebastián Lelio–directed A Fantastic Woman, which is a frontrunner in its Academy Award category, according to New York's Vulture.
In the movie, Vega plays Marina, a transgender club owner whose older boyfriend dies and upsets her entire life. Not only is Vega playing a trans woman, she is transgender herself, so you can watch the gorgeous movie knowing that representation was well served in this category. Not that I didn't love Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl or Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, but it seems more fitting that a trans actor play a trans role (and then eventually all other kinds of roles).
When it comes to working in film, Vega has already broken through much of the stigma that comes with being a transgender actress. She said in a Guardian profile that she's conflicted about trans actors in trans roles. "I have two different takes. As an actress, I don’t mind if a cisgender actor plays trans. But as a trans woman, I feel that many times we weren’t allowed to show what we can do and we can do many things," she said.
Luckily, she's been given the chance to do both. She just played a cisgender woman in another Chilean film called A Sunday in July in Santiago.
This is her first big feature film. Before being cast as Marina, Vega worked as a lyric opera singer and has appeared in smaller films, along with music videos, according to CNN. She grew up in Chile and began to transition in her mid-teens, thanks to the support of her parents and grandmother.
She told the Guardian that she was happy at first and that her transition was a positive experience. It wasn't until afterwards that she faced depression, given how hard it was to find work and live as a transgender woman. She added that she spent a "year in bed" but eventually came out of it. And then began to find work.
Lelio wanted to tell the story of what it's like to be a transgender woman in modern day Santiago, which made Vega the perfect woman for the role. He told Time:
I’ll never forget this. [Vega] opened her purse and took out her ID [when we met], with her old masculine identity on it, because the state of Chile doesn’t recognize or acknowledge the existence of transgender people…. I was just in awe.
The movie deals a lot with Vega's character wandering around the city, considering identity and peoples' perceptions of other people, according to NPR. Vega feels that the movie speaks to all kinds of audiences, not just those who are forced by their society to be considered "an outsider," as trans people often still are. She told Vulture, "Every single one of us could be Marina. We can all find a part of ourselves in her.”
Now that A Fantastic Woman will have so much visibility thanks to its Oscar nomination, expect to see a lot more of Vega, who will also be presenting at the award ceremony. She is also reportedly working on a book about her life, according to the Playlist.
Vega is ready to take Hollywood and the rest of the world by storm, too. She told Entertainment Weekly and the Guardian that she enjoys making conservatives a little uncomfortable and hopes to be a role model for the LGBTQ community in these "dark" times, when civil rights are under attack. She doesn't profess to have all the answers.
Vega told EW in the same interview that the point of her, and any film is to start a conversation, "to make sure people ask questions, not to provide them with answers. It’s to make them reflect." Her film and appearance at the Oscars will most definitely have people doing just that, along with wondering whether Hollywood has some more roles for her. Hopefully, it will.
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