Amber Heard has come a long way from her days as an aspiring beauty queen growing up in Texas.
Freshly landed in Cannes, France, as the newest global spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris, days after attending the Met Gala in New York, the actress, who has just shot her first hair commercial for the brand, for Elsève Color-Vive, gamely shared some anecdotes from her youth.
“I am from Texas, you know the saying: ‘The bigger the hair, the closer to God,’” she quipped while snacking on fruit dressed in a black vintage T-shirt and Saint Laurent jeans, her ears and fingers loaded with jewelry.
“My father was a bit of a cowboy and I was his hunting and fishing buddy, but deep inside, I really liked playing dress up,” recounted Heard, adding that the only possible outlet in the South was the beauty pageants. “I just deeply wanted to satiate that itch,” she said, recalling how she hit up a number of local businesses to sponsor her so she could live out her big-hair and princess-dress dreams.
The reality turned out to be quite different. “Lo and behold, it was in the wake of the whole JonBenét Ramsey scandal so they had severely tightened in the reins over the lavish, over-the-top pageantry of it all. I remember, I showed up, I was hearing cue words in our rehearsal like ‘ponytails’ and ‘fresh faces’ and I was just panicked. It was just not happening.”
In a parallel universe, L’Oréal’s tag line,“Because you’re worth it,” created before Heard was even born, has taken on a whole new resonance in the context of shifting times for women amid a sea of movements around inclusivity, diversity and equality.
Having been an outspoken activist her entire career — “particularly with a focus on gender issues, gender pay inequality, violence against women; in general, gender inequality, both in Hollywood and the real world” — the growing momentum of initiatives like the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements “changes how that tag line can land on you,” Heard said.
The actress also has been vocal about the need for more stories about women that are written by women. “Not only is there workplace inequality in general, ranging from salary to harassment, there’s a huge part of this puzzle missing. There are just fewer roles, and even if you were to get one of those roles — some 30 percent of speaking roles — you were still not even considering the content: What are you speaking about? And then we have to apply another filter: Do you have a name? How significant are you to the plot? These are all additional filters by which we can discern how equal the representation of women really is,” she said. “If we make up half the purchasing power in box office and just over half of the population, why is there such an extreme disparity in how we are represented?”
Upcoming projects for the actress include Alex Ross Perry’s “Her Smell,” costarring Elisabeth Moss and Cara Delevingne. In the build-up to the promotion of “Aquaman,” “I get this window of time where I jump into smaller-budget indie films by directors who are making interesting character-driven work to serve as a contrast to the blockbusters, which can consume your life for a year at a time,” said Heard, who will play an accomplished musician who crosses paths with two bands of girls — “which is a big reason why I wanted to do this movie: the principal cast is entirely female.”
On her choices for the red carpet, Heard, whose looks in Cannes included a floral couture gown by Valentino with an extreme décolleté, replied: “I’ve never been known for being safe. I have no goals when I go into fittings, I pick what I like, which is how I pick my clothes in real life.”
Her impressions of Cannes 2018?
“It’s such an interesting, weird, luminous thing: it’s the shamelessness and guiltlessness of a European vacation mixed with Old Hollywood glamour at its best.”