Evangeline Lilly is done molding herself for the male gaze. After playing Kate for six seasons of Lost, Lilly said she grew accustomed to using her sexuality to succeed in Hollywood. Now, in a new interview with Esquire, Lilly says she’s embraced authenticity in her career.
Growing up, the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania star recalled being passive and sweet—which she says worked against her. “I was very shy, and I was quintessentially, stereotypically, feminine,” Lilly said. “But very quickly I learned that’s not cool. I learned that will end up making you a victim. If you want to be a victor, here’s the path: you better adopt masculinity in a hurry. I did, and it worked. That’s gross right?”
Years later, when Lilly was offered the role of Kate, she discovered that men were “hyper-impressed by a chick that could act like a dude.” Lilly fed into it, thinking to herself, “I’m going to wear low-slung jeans and kick-ass boots and a white sleeveless tee, and I’m going to climb a tree and punch guys in the face.” Fast-forward a few years, and Lost is a massively popular show—and Lilly is a household name. By appealing to the male gaze, Lilly said, she rose in the industry. “I was allowed a key to the kingdom. I got a seat at the table because I could hang, because I was tough, because I was athletic, because I could be crude, because I could take a joke, because I could flirt, but in a way that was mutual, and they didn’t have power over me.”
What started as an empowering action had the opposite effect, in 2017, when the #MeToo Movement condemned misogyny in Hollywood. It was a wake-up call for the actress. “I realized I had become a misogynist to survive misogyny,” she continued. “I was self-aware enough to look at myself and go, you are in a panic because your currency ain’t going to count anymore.… That is essentially what happened. Being a cute, tough, young white girl is no longer what’s going to get you in the door—which is fucking great! I was celebrating that for everyone else at the same time as being like, Oh my God, I’m in trouble.”
Since then, Lilly has worked on reframing her mindset. Most recently, she tweaked The Wasp’s fighting style in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “She doesn’t have to bear down and have a massive boxing punch,” Lilly explained. “She has wings. She could be balletic in the way she moves. She could be graceful, and she could make beautiful lines, and she could do it in a way that feels very effortless and light but be effective and have a sting.”
Associate Staff Writer
Bria McNeal is a Manhattan based journalist who is patiently awaiting B5’s revival. When she’s not writing about all things entertainment, she can be found watching TV or trying to DIY something (likely, at the same time). Her work has appeared in NYLON, Refinery29, InStyle, and her personal newsletter, StirCrazy.