Karla Sofía Gascón becomes the first trans woman to win award for Best Actress at Cannes

Karla Sofía Gascón in the teaser trailer for "Emilia Pérez."
Karla Sofía Gascón in the teaser trailer for "Emilia Pérez." Photo: Screenshot

This past weekend, the Cannes Film Festival culminated in a groundbreaking moment: for the first time in its 77-year history, the festival’s jury bestowed the award for Best Actress on an out transgender woman.

Spanish actress Karla Sofía Gascón received the award at Saturday night’s gala awards ceremony alongside Adriana Paz, Zoe Saldaña, and Selena Gomez, her co-stars in French film-maker Jacques Audiard’s Spanish-language musical Emilia Pérez. While unusual, it’s not unheard of for the festival’s jury to give acting awards to a film’s ensemble cast.

“Women together — that’s something we wanted to honor when we made this award,” this year’s jury president Greta Gerwig said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Each of them is a standout, but together transcendent.”

Gascón, who stars as the film’s title character, a Mexican drug lord who comes out as trans, accepted the award on behalf of her fellow honorees, delivering an emotional speech. As Variety’s Elsa Keslassy reported in an X post, Gascón dedicated the award to “all trans people who suffer so much and must keep faith that changing is possible.”

Saldaña and Gomez celebrated their joint win with Gascón and Paz on Instagram.

“What to say…. Jacques Audiard, Español, music, dance, sisterhood, Mexico, more dance, crazy, beautiful, art, dream, desire, wish, whisper, scream, more dance, more Jacques, all woven into the tapestry of this compelling story we call Emilia Pérez,” Saldaña wrote in a post. “Thank you to this year’s members of the jury. This moment, like fine wine, will forever resonate in my heart. Mil gracias de corazón!!!”

“I’m so honored to be a small part of something so special in Emilia Pérez,” Gomez wrote in her own post, thanking Gascón, Saldaña, co-star Edgar Ramirez and director Audiard. “Every single person apart [sic] of this film absolutely blew me away.”

The film also won this year’s Jury Prize.

But Gascón’s inclusion in the cast’s Best Actress win was not without controversy. As Deadline reported, French far-right politician Marion Maréchal blasted Gascón’s win in a transphobic X post misgendering her shortly after it was announced.

Following Maréchal’s post, six French LGBTQ+ organizations filed an official complaint against her with the Paris Public Prosecutor. In a statement, Adheos, Families LGBT, Fédération LBGTI+, Mousse, Stop Homophobie, and Quazar accused Maréchal of “insult due to gender identity,” noting that the offense is punishable by a year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros under French law. Étienne Deshoulières, a lawyer representing the organizations, said that Maréchal’s comments “deny the very existence of transgender people, as well as the violence and discrimination to which these people are victims on a daily basis.”

Maréchal, the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the France’s far-right National Front party, and niece of its current leader Marine Le Pen, is currently running for European Parliament. On Tuesday, she dismissed the organizations’ complaint.

“I’m not going to let myself be intimidated by legal threats from LGBT militant activists,” she said in an interview on French radio station France Inter, according to Deadline.

“I’ve decided not to get into controversy with anyone,” Gascón wrote in an Instagram post, calling her win “bittersweet.”

“I’ve been battling on the front line for too long, now I’m just going to let my work do the talking,” she added. “For the moment there you have this PALM OF GOLD TO A WOMAN, AN ACTRESS who gives all her soul in every job.”

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