Breakout Roles: Natalie Portman

Going off Kibbe’s statement that breakout roles are a good way to see what Image Identity a certain star is, I thought that it would be an interesting to experiment to take actresses whose Kibbe Image Identities are the subject of some controversy and try to decide where they fit based not on their physical features, but how they are cast and what roles made them stars.

The first star I thought of was Natalie Portman. Natalie is someone I’ve seen listed either as Soft Gamine or Soft Classic, and I can see the case for both. She looks great in short hair, and people will sometimes try to make a physical comparison between her and Audrey Hepburn.



Classic comes in simply because she is just very pretty, and I could see casting her in a movie where she plays, say, a princess. (But of course, Audrey’s breakout role was Roman Holiday, so who says that the princess is always a classic Grace Kelly type?)

Like Mila Kunis, Natalie’s breakout role came very early in her life. She played Mathilde in Léon: The Professional at the age of 12. The Wikipedia article for the film describes her as “a twelve-year-old girl who is smoking a cigarette and sporting a black eye. Mathilda lives with her dysfunctional family in an apartment down the hall. Her abusive father and self-absorbed stepmother have not noticed that Mathilda stopped attending class at her school for troubled girls.”

Her next major role was as Queen Amidala in the Star Wars franchise. I think that outside of Star Wars fans, this isn’t really a signature role for her, but I think it presents an argument for Kibbe’s Gamine dichotomy: you aren’t sure whether they’re a waif under the bridge (her role in Léon) or a princess… In this case, a queen.

The role I think of when I think of Natalie Portman is Sam in Garden State, which is now a movie people make fun of (and she is kind of embarrassed by), but she basically plays the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

I would say that this combination of roles early on in her career–the waif/princess dichotomy, the MPDG–puts her solidly as a Gamine base over a Classic one. And looking at her height and appearance, I’m going to go with the yin side of things.

Final Verdict: Soft Gamine

If there is another star you’d like me to look at, let me know!

7 Comments on Breakout Roles: Natalie Portman

  1. Shelby
    July 4, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    I’m going to disagree – petite and looks great in short hair are not always code for Gamine (also see Emma Watson as another example). And although Mathilde and Amidala are huge roles for Natalie, if she WAS a gamine, she never would have been cast in either role. A gamine child would more resemble Shirley Temple more, and would not be as affecting or taken seriously as Mathilde or a young queen.

    Besides, I think her true “breakout” role would have to be Nina Sayers in Black Swan, a very Classic role indeed.

    • stylesyntax
      July 4, 2016 at 6:17 pm

      This is an exercise in ignoring physicality, hairstyles, red carpet clothing choices, etc. and looking solely at roles. My decision was not based on others putting her in Gamine because of her short hair, but simply using that of an example of why she has been put there in the past.

      A gamine child would certainly be cast as Mathilde, considering that the word “gamine” literally means street urchin and Paulette Goddard, a Kibbe Gamine, plays a street-urchin type character in Modern Times called “the Gamine”: No one could convincingly play a streetwise, more or less parentless little girl who becomes a kind of companion for a hardened gangster who projects enough vulnerability for him to love her in a fatherly way except a Gamine. I don’t see why a Gamine couldn’t be cast as a young queen, either. As I said in the post, Kibbe has said that gamines seem like they could simultaneously be waifs under the bridge OR princesses.

      Re: Black Swan, Natalie was already most definitely a household name by then so there is no way it could have been a “breakout role” for her, and that role is very far from Classic. An exceedingly vulnerable woman who is in line to replace Winona Ryder? Where is the “to the manor born” persona that Kibbe associates with the Classic essence? I could see parallels made to maybe something like Repulsion, but I don’t think it could be seen as a role that epitomizes the Classic essence.

      • anastasia
        October 27, 2017 at 10:00 pm

        How about romantic dramatic? Seems like she could fit there. It’s also like theatrical romantic. Found it on expressing your truth closet.

        • anastasia
          October 28, 2017 at 11:58 am

          or dramatic gamine. People seem to forget about that one.

        • stylesyntax
          October 28, 2017 at 8:20 pm

          I don’t look at Expressing Your Truth ever because stress gives me migraines. I don’t bother with any of the systems that use “essences.” I don’t think they are helpful.

  2. Anat
    July 9, 2016 at 12:04 am

    I’m seriously confused about my type.
    according to all the tests and what not, I’m a Soft Classic. However, my height (a little over 5’8”) and mostly – vibe, demeanor and style, is hardly a fit for the category. I like collared shirts and midi skirts and all – and I look good in them, but my personal style is way more Janis Joplin than Grace Kelly. My general demeanor is also more outspoken and quippy than the Kibbe SC description.
    The celebrities my friends and family have compared me to are Katherine Hepburne, Allison Janney, Susan Sarandon and Tina Fey – but they have different vibes and bodies, and the main things they share are being funny and tall.
    In short – I’m really confused, and could really use a stir in a direction of some sort..

    • stylesyntax
      July 9, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      To me, this and your other comment points to Flamboyant Natural. I’ve seen FNs who have faces that seem to veer more classic (Taylor Swift, for example, and a couple I know from the style community). David also says that a dividing line between FN and D is that FNs are “clowns” and D is more serious. So if your drama teacher could only see you in KH’s screwball roles, that actually points to more FN to me. Outspoken, quippy, funny ladies–even without a picture I get a clear image 🙂


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