I’m sitting in a small yet brightly lit room filled with cameras, facing a woman whose photo currently adorns the side of practically every bus stop I passed in the Uber on the way over here.
Whenever we see movie stars covering magazines, dressed up to the nines on the big screen or sweeping into awards shows clad in couture gowns and enough diamonds to sink the Titanic, we often console ourselves by thinking that it’s an illusion, a trick of the angles and lights or maybe just some super sleek airbrushing.
But the woman sitting elegantly in the chair in front me while obscuring the view of the Sydney Opera House has proved all those theories incorrect. All because, damn it to hell, unless there’s an undetectable alien technology level vortex sitting between us that has the power to abolish bad skin and add high level gloss to hair, she looks just the same in person as she does in the movie posters.
As soon as I read those words back to myself, I feel a cringe-inducing sense of guilt and shame because I know just how sacrilegious it is to kick off a story about Oscar nominated, award winning, critically acclaimed and wildly talented actress Jessica Chastain with comments about her looks.
However… that’s the thing about the thrall and legacy around Hollywood actresses, isn’t it?
Their looks, their presence and their star power have always been the the source of their cache. Just because we now know that these are not the words we’re meant to be uttering, doesn’t mean that’s not the place where our minds are still conditioned to go.
When you were a kid watching movies and telling anyone who would listen that you wanted to be an actress in the movies (don’t be coy, we all did it at some stage), chances are you were chasing that dream because you saw it as synonymous with beauty and fame, and not in any way connected with the creation of art or the ability to use your voice to enact social change.
When I was a little girl I have to admit that I hardcore worshipped at the altar of movie star adoration.
To me, the women who appeared on screen via the worn-out VHS tapes I played over and over again were the absolute epitome of what a successful woman should be.
They were practically sparkly, full-blown Disney Princesses finally made flesh and bone with just a few less obliging woodland animals around helping them to get dressed in the morning (that I know of….).
But in recent years, the mythology around actresses has started to change and shift, with this turning of the tide most prevalent when talking to Jessica Chastain.