By: Annicka Graham
Recently powerful, inspiring women took to the streets of Park City, UT for the Sundance Film Festival. One notable event - Leading Women’s Luncheon presented by Aspiriant with Gabourey Sidibe, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Celine Rattray, Tonya Lewis Lee, and Sandra Lee.
Throughout the course of the event, Gabourey Sidibe, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Celine Rattray, Tonya Lewis Lee, and Sandra Lee told their powerful stories on creating the road to success and defining their leading roles in a male-driven society. Alia Shawkat joined the conversation, shared her road to finding her niche and filling those roles that may have been too often given to other actors due to her sense of 'looking too ethnic.'
“I never thought of myself as being different growing up in a small kinda town. I was identified at a young age being like, your ethic, you aren’t going to get these parts”, Alia Shawkat recalls. Alia Shawkat is an American actress, born and raised in Palm Springs, California. At just the tender age of 14 years old received her breaking role in the hit TV show Arrested Development.
However like many actresses Alia found herself marginalized and even began to question if acting was her passion anymore. “ I kinda took a year off [after Arrested Development finished], where I was painting and traveling with a guy when I had to rediscover why I really loved it and that it wasn’t something that I just wanted to do, it was something I had to do.”
This new profound sense-of-self landed her a role in the movie Whip It , directed by Drew Berrymore. “It was one of the coolest experiences ever, it was [filmed] in Detroit where I met all these amazing women. “It kinda just re-sparked my energy and ever since then, the past 10 years I have been really involved in just making stuff I really want.”
Alia also spoke on the challenges of being a woman in today’s society and a time having dealt with the inner-dynamics of working with all white men on set. “ I had started this other gig and I wasn’t being heard. Is was a lot of older white men who were telling me, what they thought was funny and not listening to my ideas.”
Compared to Alia’s previous times on set she had always been one to surround herself with diverse crews. “Girls Trip is a perfect example, and I thought it was one of the best movies that came out last year. It’s a bunch of hilarious, smart women, and these stories need to be told because they haven’t been.”
Towards the end of night, Alia Shawkat received the 2018 Spotlight Initiative Award for her film Blaze that premiered at The Sundance Film Festival. An award presented to those who have excelled in the art of independent filmmaking. Alia is definitely no one hit wonder, she is breaking the mold in modern day filmmaking. Giving women working in the industry a voice, by setting a prime example that being creatively independent and following your intuition can gravitate into the success you’ve believed in all along.