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Lily Gladstone: Trailblazing Native American Actress
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Lily Gladstone is a trailblazing Native American actress who made history with her acclaimed performance as Mollie Kyle in Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon," becoming the first Native American to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama and receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Early Life on the Blackfeet Reservation

Lily Gladstone was born and raised on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana. The Blackfeet Nation, officially the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana, is a federally recognized tribe of Siksikaitsitapi people. Their reservation is located east of Glacier National Park, bordering the Canadian province of Alberta. It contains over 1.5 million acres, larger than the state of Delaware. Historically, the Blackfeet were nomadic hunter-gatherers who followed the seasonal migration of bison herds across the northern Great Plains. They acquired horses and firearms in the 1700s, enabling them to control a vast territory stretching from Saskatchewan to the Missouri River headwaters. The Blackfeet were known as fierce warriors who raided other tribes and kept fur traders out of their lands.

Early Film Roles and Acclaim

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Lily Gladstone made her feature film debut in the 2012 drama "Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian." She gained critical acclaim for her breakthrough role as Jamie in Kelly Reichardt's 2016 film "Certain Women," winning the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. Gladstone also received nominations for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female and the Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor for her performance in "Certain Women." Her nuanced portrayals in independent dramas like "Certain Women" and "Killers of the Flower Moon" have earned her widespread recognition as a talented dramatic actress.

Breakthrough Role in 'Certain Women'

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Lily Gladstone's breakthrough role came in 2016 with Kelly Reichardt's critically acclaimed film "Certain Women." She portrayed Jamie, a ranch hand and one of the three protagonists in the anthology drama set in Montana. Despite sharing the screen with acclaimed actors like Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams, Gladstone's understated yet powerful performance as a queer Indigenous woman stole the show. Her ability to convey depths of emotion through subtle facial expressions and quiet delivery was widely praised. Gladstone's poignant portrayal of Jamie's unspoken connection with Stewart's character became the definitive takeaway from the film. "Certain Women" marked Gladstone as a rising talent and paved the way for her leading role in "Killers of the Flower Moon" years later.

Portrayal of Mollie Kyle in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

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In Martin Scorsese's epic "Killers of the Flower Moon," Lily Gladstone delivers a powerful and nuanced portrayal of Mollie Kyle, an Osage woman who survived the horrific murder conspiracy against her wealthy family. Originally, Mollie's role was limited to just three scenes, but Scorsese recognized Gladstone's talent and expanded the character to become a central focus, depicting her complex relationship with her husband Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gladstone imbued Mollie with a quiet strength and resilience, conveying depths of emotion through stillness and subtle gestures. She insisted on learning her lines in both English and Osage to authentically capture Mollie's bilingual identity. Scenes like Mollie's silent contemplation during a storm showcase Gladstone's ability to command the screen without words. Her performance has been praised for honoring the real Mollie Kyle's spirit while giving voice to the Osage Nation's tragic history.

Groundbreaking Awards and Acclaim

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Lily Gladstone made history with her acclaimed performance as Mollie Kyle in Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon." She became the first Native American woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama for the role. Her nuanced portrayal of the resilient Osage woman earned widespread critical praise and recognition from major awards bodies. Gladstone's groundbreaking achievements have paved the way for increased Native American representation and opened doors for future generations of Indigenous actors.

Diverse Artistic Collaborations

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Beyond her breakthrough in "Certain Women" and her Oscar-nominated turn in "Killers of the Flower Moon," Lily Gladstone has built an impressive body of work across film, television, and theater. She reunited with director Kelly Reichardt for the acclaimed 2019 film "First Cow," which won Best Film from the New York Film Critics Circle. Gladstone has also appeared in acclaimed TV series like "Reservation Dogs" as Hokti (2022-2023) and "Billions" as Roxanne (2019-2023). On stage, Gladstone was part of the acting company at the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2017. She also starred in the 2020 Yale Repertory Theater production of "Manahatta" by Mary Kathryn Nagle, further showcasing her versatility across mediums. Gladstone's collaborations with esteemed filmmakers, showrunners, and theater companies demonstrate her rising status as a respected actress sought after for her nuanced performances.

Cultural Advocacy and Heritage

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Lily Gladstone is deeply committed to advocating for Indigenous cultures and communities through her work and public platform. She actively collaborates with Native designers to incorporate traditional motifs and aesthetics into her red carpet looks, using fashion as a means to celebrate her heritage. Gladstone also works closely with organizations like the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center to raise awareness about issues facing Native women and support grassroots initiatives. Gladstone places great importance on preserving Indigenous languages and ensuring accurate representation. For her role as Mollie Kyle in "Killers of the Flower Moon," she insisted on learning her lines in both English and Osage to authentically portray Mollie's bilingual identity. In speeches and interviews, Gladstone frequently highlights the resilience of Native peoples and the need to honor treaty rights and tribal sovereignty. Her powerful advocacy amplifies Indigenous voices and perspectives on a global stage.

Closing Thoughts

Lily Gladstone's acclaimed performance alongside legendary actors like Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Killers of the Flower Moon" solidifies her status as a rising star in the film industry. Her nuanced portrayal of Mollie Kyle has earned her widespread recognition, including becoming the first Native American woman nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Gladstone's breakthrough showcases her remarkable talent and ability to command the screen through subtle gestures and stillness. Like De Niro, whose dedication to fully inhabiting diverse roles has made him an acting icon, Gladstone's insistence on learning the Osage language for authenticity demonstrates her commitment to her craft. Her powerful advocacy for Indigenous representation and accurate depictions of Native cultures and languages further cements her as a role model for aspiring actors. As an Indigenous woman breaking barriers in Hollywood, Gladstone's ascent inspires a new generation of Native American performers and storytellers in the film industry.
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