Photography by JUCO | Retouching by Anna Glen at Wet Noodle
The Moment: November 14, 1930: Marlene Dietrich stars in Morocco, featuring the actress’s iconic tuxedo and Hollywood’s first on-screen female-to-female kiss.
On Valentine’s Day this year, Ellen Page came out publicly while giving a gorgeously eloquent speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference. It was an act that had been choreographed months in advance by Page, her representation, and HRC president Chad Griffin, who all wanted the revelation to have a more selfless impact than it would if Page were to “say it on Twitter,” as she puts it when we meet at New York’s Bowery Hotel. Before making the announcement that would leave her visibly exhaling in relief, Page offered an anecdote about a Web site that ran an article with a photo of her in sweatpants. The writer, Page explained, asked why such a beauty would insist on dressing that way. “Because I like to be comfortable,” Page told the conference’s enamored attendees.
Taking in the extent of Page’s newfound comfort is invigorating. Beyond the no-fuss clothes she’s wearing today (sneakers, a hoodie, and a cap), she’s noticeably unburdened, and it all seems new for an actress who, despite her vigor on screen, has previously given off a shy vibe in public. “You just feel different in the world,” says the 27-year-old Oscar nominee. “Once you’ve done something that you used to think was impossible, what could ever really scare you again? Even now, press is more enjoyable because I don’t have to have certain conversations. For instance, I’m never going to have to have a conversation about a dress, or heels, ever again.”
Netting a Best Actress nod at the age of 20 for Juno, Page was groomed early for the dress-and-heels, red carpet scene. But things were missing from it, including her first girlfriend, whom she’d met shortly before the film’s release, but couldn’t include in its glittering aftermath. “No one’s ever been so direct as to say, ‘You’re gay, so we’re gonna hide it,’ ” Page says. “But there’s an unspoken thing going on. [People] believe it’s the right thing to do for your career. They don’t realize it’s eroding your soul. It was eventually about me being like, Wait, why am I listening to that? At what point did I let those things become important?
For Page, a game-changing moment came not long ago, when she watched TV host (and fellow Canadian) George Stroumboulopoulos chat with Dan Savage, who voiced his steadfast opinion that coming out is a moral imperative. “The way he spoke of it left very little leeway, and it really stuck with me,” Page says. “We all go through a journey and get where we need to be, but I really did start feeling guilty. I kind of felt like an asshole.”
Sitting on Page’s lap is a script for Freeheld, a feature-length adaptation of the acclaimed 2007 short, which chronicled the struggles of Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree, a real-life lesbian couple from New Jersey, who, when Hester was diagnosed with terminal cancer, were denied the right of Hester passing on her pension to Andree. Page, who’s both co-producing the film and starring as Andree (Julianne Moore will play Hester), has been developing the project since she was 21.
“It’s very direct in showing how discrimination against the LGBT community affects people,” Page says. “There’s no getting around the unfairness that happened here, and just how illogical and almost psychopathic it felt. And it’s so exciting to get to do a love story with the sex that you actually fall for. I’m thrilled about it.”
It’s mostly serendipitous that Page came out in the same year Freeheld commenced production, but the movie has, naturally, impacted the way she’s felt about how she presents herself. She’s the latest in a new line of LGBT artists who come out after devoting themselves to meaningful, queer-themed projects, and if you want to label that a fashionable phenomenon, be her guest. “Even if it did become a trend, who cares, right?” Page says. “Let being yourself become a trend.”
Photographed at Milk Studios, New York on September 19, 2014
Fashion Director: Grant Woolhead. Styling by Michael Cook. fashion assistant: taja whitted. Set Designer: Greg Garry. Hair: Rheanne White. Makeup: Hung Vanngo. Coat by Emporio Armani.