Hollywood comes to Mountlake Terrace: Friends and fans celebrate Lily Gladstone on Oscar night

Friends of Lily Gladstone, some on the edges of their seats, wait for the announcement for Best Actress on Sunday. (Photo by Rick Sinnett)

Friends, former teachers and classmates of Lily Gladstone gathered at Mountlake Terrace High School to show support during the 2024 Academy Awards on Sunday, March 10.

Guests dressed to the nines in suits and sequins matched the glitz of the high school-turned-gala. Local journalists jostled with national news outlets such as Access Hollywood and Reuters for pictures and interviews.

To the left of the school’s entrance was the theater with a red carpet and a life-size cutout of Gladstone for pictures. The lower floor was turned into a dining area, with café lights, tables and screens projecting images of the actress’s progression from a high school student to a Golden Globe winner.

Lily Gladstone

Kimberly Nelson, a retired MTHS health teacher who worked with Gladstone and the drama department, said “We’ve been planning this since she won her Golden Globe.”

The planning team consisting of Nelson, Ryan Rios, Stephanie Rios, Ryan Jensen, Johnathan Schlegel and Gladstone’s longtime friend Josh Ryder, who spent the last two months planning, securing the site and gathering sponsors.

“It’s so cool that we get to come together to celebrate this moment in the place where it all started, you know, with people that maybe we haven’t seen in a long time but feel a lot of love for,” Ryder said. 

As the time approached for the Best Actor and Actress categories, most of the crowd moved to the theater, where multiple camera crews were prepared to broadcast the reaction to Gladstone’s anticipated win for her role as Mollie Burkhart in the movie Killers of the Flower Moon. Microphones were set up to record the expected cheers.

The moment had arrived for the Best Actress category. The audience waited with bated breath; at one point, Ryder was momentarily off his seat in a crouch, only to return to its edge.

The envelope with the winner’s name was handed to presenter Michelle Yeoh on the theater’s screen.

Yeoh opened the envelope and read the name “Emma Stone.” 

Josh Ryder, a classmate, friend and co-actor of Lily Gladstone from Mountlake Terrace High School, speaks with a television crew from Access Hollywood at Sunday’s celebration. (Photo by Craig Parrish)

The deep breath the audience had held during the announcement wasn’t released in a joyous shout of victory, but the slow exhale of shock as disbelief gave way to reality.

You would hear a pin drop if not for the theater’s audio feed of the awards ceremony, which now felt more like background noise. .. a TV set to a random channel just to fill the emptiness until the applause of good sportsmanship picked up momentum.

Before the announcement, Ryder said that awards are “just icing on the cake.”

“It’s about the work, it’s about the process. It’s about if you enjoyed yourself while doing it,” Ryder said. “If other people want to recognize you and say, ‘Hey, this, this really spoke to me,’ then that’s great.”

“I hope that Lily is extremely proud of the work that she has done and that this is just the cherry on top, that whatever happens tonight doesn’t diminish what she does on the screen,” Ryder added.

The team that organized the Oscar viewing gala included Ryan Rios (left), Stephanie Rios (center-left), Kimberly Nelson (center), Ryan Jensen (center-right), and Johnathan Schlegel (right). Not pictured is Josh Ryder. (Photo by Rick Sinnett)

This Academy Award win would have meant much to Gladstone, the city and Mountlake Terrace High School; it would also have been very significant for the Indigenous people of North America and worldwide.

North American Indigenous actors such as Wes Studi, Graham Greene and now Gladstone, have been nominated in the past but ultimately snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

To date, the only Indigenous Oscar winners have been of Irish Traveler or Māori descent. Buffy Sainte-Marie, the 1982 winner of Best Original Song for Up Where We Belong from the film An Officer and a Gentleman is believed to have lied about her Piapot heritage after a CBC documentary.

Jeannie Brzovic (center), head of Mountlake Terrace High School’s drama department, gets the Hollywood media treatment from Access Hollywood and Reuters, among other outlets. (Photo by Rick Sinnett)

In the minds of Gladstone’s supporters, this was like watching a book turned into a movie, with the ending radically changed. But as MTHS Drama Department head Jeannie Brzovic pointed out, Gladstone’s book is still being written.

“This is only the first chapter of her story,” Brzovic said. “We will see her at the Oscars again.”

— By Rick Sinnett

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