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Will Cannes Change Red Carpet Rules After Kelly Rowland Controversy?

Will Cannes Change Red Carpet Rules After Kelly Rowland Controversy?

As Sean Baker’s sex worker dramedy, Anora, rides off into the sunset carrying this year’s Palme d’Or, tongues are still wagging about another workplace drama — the one involving that female Cannes Film Festival security guard.

Social media posts showing the same female security official rushing Kelly Rowland, Dominican actress Massiel Taveras and South Korean actress and pop star Yoona up the steps and inside the Palais at separate events are still going viral online, raising new questions about the protocols at the world’s most famous film festival red carpet. Many online noted that all of the people being rushed through the carpet were women of color, leading some to make claims of discrimination, though there were also videos of the security guard dragging a Ukrainian model who was trying to pose for pictures at the top of the steps into the theater.

After her viral confrontation, during which the singer and actress can be seen in a tense exchange with the security guard, Rowland told The Associated Press, “The woman knows what happened. I know what happened. I have a boundary, and I stand by those boundaries, and that is it.” She continued: “There were other women who attended that carpet, who did not look quite like me. And they didn’t get scolded or pushed off or told to get off. And I stood my ground, and she felt like she had to stand hers. But I stood my ground.”

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the festival comment but has yet to hear back.

THR also connected with several well-placed festival insiders, some of whom shrugged off the controversy by saying it’s de rigueur for the Palais. Festival regulars, from execs to PR reps, note that the behavior seen on social media, while troubling, is not uncommon for the festival, which runs its famous red carpet with near militaristic gusto.

While it’s unclear how long the official seen in the videos on social media has been working the festival, it’s well known that many of the employees who staff the Palais during the festival have held their posts for years and are well-trained, whether it be at the multiple security checkpoints, outside on the iconic red carpet or inside the Grand Lumiere Theatre. One security official who manned a post at the top of the steps told THR this year that he’d been working in the same position for more than a decade. It is also not uncommon to see the same faces at every single entrance and exit, or the same ushers for the duration of the festival.

Unless it’s the actors from that specific film premiere, the jury or celebrities representing one of the festival’s sponsors (like Chopard or L’Oréal), attendees are always rushed down the carpet and up the stairs.

Of course, exceptions are made when it’s a major A-lister or a beloved festival veteran, but for the most part, the job of security is to keep the flow of traffic moving and get everyone in their seats by the scheduled start time. That can be, at times, no easy feat as the Grand Lumiere Theatre has a capacity of more than 2,300. Security also acts swiftly to stop any selfies in the act or put a stop to non-official picture-taking, in general, once attendees hit the carpet, with officials known to put their hands in front of camera lenses.

“I feel [security] is not sensitive to the purpose of being there, but I understand there is a lot of fringe,” said one Hollywood insider who frequently attends the festival with clients. “Maybe we need less non-actors and creators getting attention for something that is the last true film festival.” 

Thierry Fremaux, the longtime festival lieutenant, called selfies “grotesque” and “ridiculous” when the practice was banned in 2018. “It’s not beautiful,” he said. “We want to restore a bit of decency.” But aside from decorum, it’s also logistics as premieres would never start on time if they allowed every attendee to stop and pose for pictures.

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Harsh measures aside, photos are the reason there was a security scuffle in the first place. Seasoned red carpet stars know the best pics come from giving photographers every angle and pose and hitting multiple points on the Cannes red carpet where photographers are stationed. Rowland, who gained fame as a member of Destiny’s Child, was pushed along and blocked as she tried to pose for additional shots. One source said they are accustomed to being treated harshly or sometimes in an impolite or unpleasant manner while stopping at various points along the way up to the entrance.

As for Taveras, she attempted to pull a fashion stunt right outside the theater entrance by unfurling her gown to expose a portrait of Jesus Christ when she was blocked and rushed inside. It is also widely known that festival security frowns on stunts, protests and other displays that could threaten the occasion.

It’s far from the first time that there’s been a brouhaha at the Palais. In 2015, a furor erupted after some women were turned away from attending various premieres for not wearing high heels and some men were banned from entering without black tuxedo shoes. Fremaux insisted it was just a fuss, and “the rumor that the festival requires high heels for women on the steps is unfounded.” That wasn’t enough to squash the controversy which carried on for the rest of the festival that year. Even Emily Blunt weighed in during a press conference for Sicario, saying, “Everyone should wear flats, to be honest.”

By the following year, Fremaux had changed his tune. “It was unacceptable from the security people,” he said in 2016. “But there are 2,000 people and one guy decided to do that, and we didn’t know until the day after.”

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