Emilia Pérez star Karla Sofía Gascón becomes first transgender actress to win at Cannes

The ensemble cast of “trans gangster musical” Emilia Pérez, including Selena Gomez and Karla Sofía Gascón, collectively won Best Actress at the Cannes 2024 gala ceremony on Saturday (25 May).

Madrid-born Karla Sofía Gascón, 52, who is trans, accepted the Cannes best actress award on behalf of the other female members of the cast – Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña, Karla Sofía Gascón and Adriana Paz.

Spanish-language musical Emilia Pérez has been the talk of the Cannes Film Festival 2024 thanks to its dramatic story of Mexican drug wars, not to mention trans liberation. It received a 10-minute standing ovation at a screening earlier this week.

The film follows the story of Mexico City lawyer Rita (Zoe Saldaña) who is hired by cartel leader Manitas (Karla Sofia Gascón) with the unusual request to help Manitas flee Mexico with her children and wife, Jessi (Selena Gomez) in order to seek gender affirming surgery so she can live as a woman.

Cannes jury president (and Barbie director) Greta Gerwig explained the thinking behind the shared award: “Women together – that’s something we wanted to honor when we made this award,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “Each of them is a standout, but together transcendent.”

Emilia Pérez also received the coveted jury prize at this year’s festival.

Sex worker drama Anora – a darkly funny and touching drama about a young exotic dancer who becomes involved with a Russian oligarch’s son – won the top prize, the Palme d’Or.

Karla Sofía Gascón accepted the ensemble cast’s award with a tearful speech, dedicating it to all trans people “who suffer so much and must keep faith that changing is possible”.

Gascón’s co-star Selena Gomez was not at the gala event, but shared an Instagram story expressing her delight and disbelief at the news, with her head in her hand. She tagged fellow Emilia Pérez star Zoe Saldana.

Instagram story by Selena Gomez showing her with her head in her hands with a caption that says "when Zoe Saldana told me we all won best actress"
Selena Gomez shared this Instagram Story about the win (IG @SelenaGomez)

The film has been very positively reviewed. Rolling Stone‘s review of Emilia Pérez describes the musical as “one of those films in which description on a page can’t do justice to the delirium onscreen.”

Furthermore, Vanity Fair notes “Audiard’s steadfast refusal to play it as a joke – this is sincere, sentimental filmmaking – proves wholly winning.”

Currently, there is no Emilia Pérez release date for UK or US audiences. However, the film will be theatrically released in France on 28 August 2024.

Please login or register to comment on this story.