Elliot Page Has a New Kind of Superpower in Mind
Elliot Page is dressed in a black hoodie and thick-rimmed glasses, his person scaled down to the three-inch window of a video-conference call. Such levels of mediation (sartorial, technological, PR) usually make for a somewhat inscrutable conversation, where the tangible human qualities are rendered as flat as the screen. (This much we all know, three years into a pandemic that’s made us all very online; it’s in part why some actors are keen to ditch audition videos and get back in front of casting agents.) But Page is something else. To call him luminous would be appropriate—his skin appears to be remarkably hydrated, despite a current stretch in Toronto’s wintry mix, filming season 4 of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. But the more apt word is translucent. Emotions seem to flow freely, through words (more searchingly precise than guarded) and gestures. At one point, reflecting on the “degree of presence and comfort in my body” experienced as a trans man these past couple years, Page’s eyes close for the span of several sentences; his hands, usually animating the frame, momentarily join together. It reads as a universal expression of gratitude—or, in the spirit of dual-meaning emojis, a deserved high-five to oneself.
Since Page announced his transition in December 2020, there has been an outpouring of support within the industry. The following April, speaking with the trans writer Thomas Page McBee for Vanity Fair, the actor described “this massive explosion of creativity,” as if all the energy spent grinding through existence were suddenly freed up, ready to be poured into a screenplay and music and, due this June, a debut memoir called Pageboy. (The cover portrait by Catherine Opie leans into classic Americana: white tank, blue jeans, bicep tattoos.) When The Umbrella Academy returned last summer for its third season, Page’s character followed a similar arc: new haircut, new name (Viktor Hargreeves). And now, the latest turn in the spotlight is a new Gucci Guilty campaign, which sees Page playing house with Julia Garner and A$AP Rocky, to the tune of the Harptones’ “Life Is But a Dream.” Garner, in red lipstick and faux fur, is giving Hollywood starlet; Rocky wears lace-up pants—stylistic kin to corsets and chaps. Page brings the color with a sequined hibiscus-print button-down. In the business-casual spirit of the Hawaiian shirt (Aloha Friday is an honored tradition in the state), the look speaks to the importance of letting loose while staying grounded.
“You feel it on every level, big and small,” Page says of the continuing reverb of this sense of self. “Whether it’s sitting down and being able to feel present enough to write every day, or whether it’s a feeling of how it just feels to wait.” It hits different, mundane quietude. But right now, the assaults are loud on the political right, with new laws in Mississippi and Tennessee that ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. (The ACLU is currently tracking 421 anti-LGBTQ bills across the country.) Here, Page talks about staying engaged in the push for equality, the time-capsule smell of high school body spray, and Gucci Guilty’s understated superpowers.
Vanity Fair: In the past you’ve mentioned self-identifying as a boy when you were little—writing fake love letters and signing them “Jason.” How did you navigate the perfume-cologne divide early on?
Elliot Page: I guess the smells that I’ve personally gravitated towards have never changed because when I was a really little kid, I would sneak into my brother’s room and steal a touch of his cologne or Old Spice or whatever. Then, of course, this feeling like you’re not supposed to wear that, and navigating those internal and external expectations that obviously are infused in so much of what we do and wear, [with] hair and makeup. It’s a journey for everybody, I suppose, in our own individual ways.
When I think about identity shift, in life and in fiction, a haircut is often the marker, as it is with your character Viktor in The Umbrella Academy. Was there a fragrance for you early on that similarly marked an internal shift or felt like a truer reflection of self?
It’s as if there’s a variety of moments. You had a moment and then it slipped away, and then you found your moment again—the way in which we discover how we find ourselves or what speaks to us. But I’d probably go back to, oh my God, literally being with my high school boyfriend when I’m 16 and wanting his Axe body spray. Or even smelling sandalwood for the first time. These smells that [made me go], “Wait, why am I relating to this smell so much?” Then as now, I’ve loved these similar smells, even with Gucci Guilty, in regards to that earthy, bold, sensual smell that I like.