‘Most of you are wondering who the heck I am!” It’s Sunday night in Toronto at the Canadian Screen Awards and Natasha Negovanlis has just won the Fan Choice Award for her role as a lesbian vampire on the Web series Carmilla. She’s not wrong.
Negovanlis is mostly an unknown name in the traditional world of film and TV, but online she is beloved by a global fan base of gay and queer millennials that watch her in three-to-seven-minute increments, adoringly. Those fans – who gave Carmilla more than 55 million views on YouTube – had spoken, and in so doing thrust their star into the spotlight of an audience of Canadian media institutions and gatekeepers, from Telefilm to the National Film Board, who were already wondering where the future of homegrown content and production is going. In the moment, the quick and dirty answer seemed to be: right where Negovanlis stood.
The 26-year-old performer dedicated her win to her online fans and offered a rallying call for more diverse depictions of queer sexuality. “It has been an honour and a privilege to provide for more positive on-screen representation for the queer community – for my community,” she said. “This is for my fans who feel like they don’t belong, or who feel like an outsider – I’m still very much the little girl who used to get shoved into lockers – so this one is for all of you.”
In an interview the day after the CSAs, Negovanlis replayed those adrenalin-spiked moments, and about her choice to call out the lack of gay representation in much of film and TV. “It definitely became even more political in the moment than I expected it to be, but it was important to me to be as honest as possible about who I am and who my fans are. After all, it is a fan’s choice award,” she says. “What’s special about our Web series is that it’s given a voice to queer youth who need that voice and need the representation.”