The Festival de Cannes is now the world’s most prestigious film gathering, as well as its most widely publicised cultural event, according to the institution’s own website.
So you could imagine how excited I was when my work schedule cleared up and I was able to book a stay in the luxurious coastal town!
As I headed out, I reflected on last year’s 70th edition which I was also privileged to attend. It was my first time attending the iconic celebration of cinematic excellence and I was enthralled. From brushing shoulders with celebrities as they ascended the legendary red carpet to partying with heiresses and models in exclusive parties, the glitz and glamour of Cannes is unmatched.
Founded in 1946, few film festivals are more selective and as a blogger, it is the perfect destination to mix business with pleasure. Indeed, the lovely venues frequented by affluent attendees and the opulent backgrounds make for stunning pictures and great networking.
A visit to the Cannes Festival and its legendary Croisette can literally be a date with destiny, so it’s best to prepare your stay and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and sprinkle a little pixie dust on your life!
So here are my 5 favorite things about this stately yet exremely fun festival (complete with a “What I learned” segment!) :
1. Exclusive Screenings and VIP Events
As crowds flock to the famed venue which culminates with the unveiling of the winner of The Palme d’Or (the highest prize awarded at the Festival), you must be ready to look the part and stand out to attend these events.
If you are an accredited media correspondant, your access to most venues and events are of course unquestionned and will be widely accepted. However, if you’re like the rest of us, you have to be a little more savvy than usual to access the gilded list of events.
Most of these exclusive, invite-only events are headlined by famous A-Listers, such as Penelope Cruz, Naomi Campbell and Eva Longoria. And this year, 50 cent and John Travolta made appearances and the Spike Lee party was the talk of the town. But don’t despair, there is always a way in. Just like I was lucky enough to be attend the Fashion TV party invited by a photographer who knew the VP of L’Oréal! She first scouted me at the Martinez hotel and as we sipped over our tea and exchanged pleasantries, I guess I passed the test and was invited to join her group for the evening. But personally, I think I was most impressed with the exclusive concert that Jussie smollett gave at the lavish VIP Room and enjoyed every second of the R&B crooner’s set. He brought the Empire to the Croisette and I couldn’t feel more proud to see him shine so bright!
What I learned: In Cannes, it’s really not about what you do but about who you know. You can get into literally any venue if you have the right connections. But never rely solely on others, make sure you do your research on events, attendees and potential tickets. You can write the Official Festival committee as well for press passes and access to events. Consult the Tourism Office and get as much info from your hotel’s front desk or online as possible. Being prepared will take you a long way and not being afraid of rejection will open doors you never expected!
2. Beachfront activities and parties
In my opinion, Cannes is the ideal getaway during the festival, which usually falls around May-June each year. As an island girl, the beauty of the beachfront and the yatcht-filled marina do not leave me indifferent. As a matter of fact, I simply am transported by the salt filled breeze and the sounds of the sea gulled to another time and space where every thing is gonna be alright. Although, my Caribbean roots allow me to indulge nostalgically in the lovely atmosphere, the beachfront ambiance attracts and charms the thousands of visitors from accross the globe.
What I absolutely love is when I meet up with friends, and we look up our cels to check out the different “hot spots” for the night. We meet up and after the different texts signaling which party is on fire, we change into our flats and head from one venue to the next. You can uber it, but it’s the Croisette dah-ling. Might as well enjoy the palm tree-lined stroll and people-watch your way to your destination! You just might get stopped by an eager group of “Festival Paparazzi”, as I call them and score a mini photoshoot as you unleash your inner-diva.
you can watch a cache of classics at the Cinéma de la Plage, in which a movie screen is set-up on Mace Beach. You can get tickets through Cannes’ Tourism Office
What I learned: Most of these events are glamorous and entertaining and can push you into party-hopping frenzies- but behind the glitzy facade, they are professional reunions at their core. Make sure you enjoy the nautical ambiance fully, have an extra pair of flats or blazer on hand just in case and be ready for any unexpected turn of events. You might start the night enjoying hors-d’oeuvres on a 5-star patio and end it sipping Dom P. on yacht with Leonardo Di Caprio! So let the good times roll, but stay on top of your game.
3. Networking Opportunities
According to Forbes, “true networking occurs when there’s an understanding that everyone in the room has equal value.”
That is something that you should remember when entering those gilded walls of the Palais des Festivals, the mythical Casino or any of the iconic luxury hotels hosting events. In Cannes, although not everyone will act as though you matter, don’t fall in the snob trap and act like a desperate status seeker. Instead, just be you. But, make sure it’s the best version of yourself.
The year before, it was my first experience at the festival, so I was a bit nervous and felt so little compared to the industry big-wigs, I basically put on a snobbish act to be taken seriously and stand out. Although my attitude opened some doors, they were superficial at best. That is why I now firmly believe authenticity is the best policy, and this year I committed myself to being my authentic self. As you head out to network, make sure you have your business cards updated and have brushed up on your social skills! This is the time to bring out your A-game because the Croisette should be called the “Cross-IT”, as it’s literally is the spot to cross paths with the It-crowd!
By presenting yourself politely, being kind and respectful, you attract the people with whom you can truly connect with and successfully network. Those who don’t acknowledge your value aren’t worth the effort, so focus on those that do.
Whatever your field of business, make sure you overcome your fear of rejection and dive right in! Be open, and start with a simple hello or witty ice breaker. You never know who you might connect with! Networking goes a long way, as some of my best conversations, future business partners, and brand collaborations happened as a result of it! In Cannes, I’ve exchanged with celebrated directors and actresses to famed politicians and even discreet royals! So don’t underestimate the power of networking and put yourself out there.
Pro Tip: begin with a proper introduction, making eye contact, sounding confident yet friendly. Don’t be too apprehensive but make sure your questions are relevant to the context by guiding the conversation to a common ground where all parties feel heard and respected.
What I learned: When partaking in such exclusive and even elitist environments, it can be easy to feel a bit insecure but the trick is to see that everyone has something to bring to the table and so do you! The fact that you brought your business cards, are putting yourself out there, setting up informal meetups and discuss projects, shows that you’re an asset. Case in point: I was able to set up an impromptu interview, on video with a director from Los Angeles who came to sell his film project! After being introduced during dinner, I simply asked if he’d be ok with a few questions and he kindly accepted. And voilà! The other guests were impressed with my innovative interview style and discovered a few interesting facts about the movie!
4. Yes we Cannes- breathe!
The festival activities are percolating, The #Cannes Instagram story is buzzing and the Croisette is bursting with excitement! Just thinking bout it, gives you a serious case of F.O.M.O. and you can’t help but to want to attend every event! But not only is it impossible to be at more than one place at the same time, it would drive you crazy if it were! It’s really not realistic nor even worth it to attend all these events and you’ll be happy to take a much deserved breather. Yes you Cannes and you should!
That is why I always advise to take at least a couple of days off, depending on your stay to simply unwind from the stressors that come along with such a high-profile event.
Things can get so intense between the fittings, the shootings, the events, invites and other obligations that you could definitely lose it. My first time in Cannes, I experienced a mini-burnout and although it was quite alarming it was a precious learning experience. I was invited to walk up the red carpet to accompany a French actor but with the time constraints, I had to be red-carpet ready upon arrival! Between the rushed instructions from the NYC-based PR agency that orchestrated my the meetup, the the frenetic calls from the actor and the 40mins delay of my train, as I arrived in Cannes, I just couldn’t do it! I dropped in my Uber’s seat and as I gasped for air, I simply requested to be dropped off at my hotel. Although I was sad for missing out on such a priviledged opportunity, as I soaked in an arometherapy-infused bath, I decided to gain perspective. It was then that I realized that if I am in this gorgeous city on the French Riviera, there has to be more to it than the glitz and glamour and most importantly, it was vital that I listen to my body. I decided to enjoy the relaxing facilities at my hotel and simply do nothing. During the festival, it’s so easy to get caught up in the buzz, so it’s crucial to incorporate a healthy dose of balance into your stay.
Fun yet practical ways to do so are by enjoying the Mediterranean sea beaches, socializing and engaging with the charming people of Cannes – Les Cannois (I was touched by how hospitable everyone was!), getting fresh produce from the local market, taking a quick trip to neighboring cities, such as charming Nice or luxurious Monaco– or, simply taking advantage of your hotel facilities, such as the pool, lounge and spa. After taking time for me, I was replenished, rejuvenated and the balance that I felt within was worth more than any red-carpet event!
What I learned: With all the running around, picture-taking and chatting you’ll be doing, you’ll most likely be mentally and physically exhausted during your stay if you don’t take some time to unplug and recenter. Whatever your way of relaxing, make time for it! Your mind and body will surely thank you. During such a publicized event, feelings run high, people can be insensitive and things can get erratic, taking some time off your hectic schedule is a must! I even recommend setting some time aside before going out to meditate or just pray, which sets the tone for your day ahead. By consecrating some days to anything but the festival and starting each day with a moment of self-care, your stay is guaranteed to be more fulfilling. Balance is key, so don’t wait until you’re pushed to the edge to partake in all the beauty the city has to offer!
5. Glamour Galore
The Cannes film festival is by far the most glamorous one of all. Not only is it the place where the elite of the 7e art (cinema) commemorate their achievements and reward stellar films, it is the world’s fashion runway for about two weeks! So it’s important that you prep your wardrobe for the year’s most stylish festival.
The iconic red carpet is the acclaimed stage of the fashion industry that every it-girl, actress and model wants to be captured on and catapulted at the top of the Best-Dressed Lists.
Many a star has launched their career on the festival’s famous tapis rouge, so it’s established that with so much history and glamour, the bar is set pretty high.
That being said, this is one trip that you’ll need a minimum of three exceptional gowns, sophisticated jewelry and a few fancy shoes. So although the goal is to access the red carpet and be photographed ascending those crimson stairs, it may not always be a possibility given that you need an official press pass and an exclusive film tickets. If you do get access, it is your time to shine! You will be attending an official screening inside the Palais des Festival et des Congrès and will have to go through security and several check-points before you step unto the glamorous red carpet.
But don’t despair if you don’t have red carpet access. You are still in the running to be photographed and be invited to awesome posh events. It’s still worth it to pack your glitz and glam garments no matter your status! It’s truly the only festival where you can dress up like a Hollywood star and not feel over the top!
I advise that about a week prior to your trip to get your outfits and hairstyles set; you can make Pinterest inspo boards of classy looks and sleek tresses. Also, make an appointment with your nail tech, set up an at-home spa day, and take the necessary pampering steps to make sure you look put together and chic.
It is a well known fact that the more polished you look, the more opportunities will come your way once you are at the festival. People are really visually influenced and the photographers catch everything! n the words of Miny Kaling: “is it really a red carpet without a wardrobe malfunction”?
Case in point: Last year, an actress friend of mine was photographed on the red carpet but experienced a wardrobe malfunction that ended up being plastered all over the media! As we were having dinner with the designer and a few other film insiders, we were interrupted by a painful gasp as she received a google alert. We all looked on in horror as she painfully scrolled through the sensationalized titles and demeaning comments from online media outlets and blogs! I remember being in so much shock while listening to her call her legal team to manage the unfortunate red carpet crisis. It was hard lesson about how ruthless the entertainment industry can be
What I’ve learned: With its glamorous yachts, countless celebrities, and myriad of couture looks, the croisette is the perfect place to embrace the opportunity to unleash your inner glamazon! The festival is the most ostentatious and fabulous venue on the French Riviera, so don’t hesitate to pack your most captivating, alluring and fabulous outfits. If it’s one place you can get away with over the top, gliz and glam, this is it! The Cannes Film Festival is your time to shine! But beware of those inevitable wardrobe malfunctions, especially if you are set for an important event or scheduled to walk up the mythical red carpet stairs. Before facing the throng of photographers and their high-resolution lenses, make sure you meticulously examine every inch of your outfit, especially securing those private body parts! When the world is watching, you need to present your best self and be on guard at all times!
In conclusion, Cannes thought me that the beauty and glamour of Old Hollywood and the fantasy of being a silver screen siren can be captured if only for a moment in time. As I sashayed through luxurious hotel lobbies and restaurants and embracing the liberating feeling of unwinding on lavish patios and letting the ocean breeze caress my sunkissed skin, while listening to a live piano played in the background. Conversations were enriching, my mood was lifted and I danced the night away- first on yatcht stop then on the iconic L’Ame rooftop, sipping my pineapple juice under the stars.
Thanks so much for stopping by!