Julia Roberts kicks off her heels on the red carpet

The A-lister went footloose and fancy free at Cannes. Here’s why her barefoot walk is getting so much attention.

Jodie Foster trails Julia Roberts, who walked bare foot up the stairs upon arrival at the 'Money Monster' premiere during Cannes Film Festival on May 12. Andreas Rentz | Getty Images

Who knew kicking off a pair of platform heels could cause such a stir? Who would guess that women from all over would view it as such a glorious act of rebellion? But of course, when it’s Julia Roberts walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, (a place rumored to have “heels only” rule for women), those bare toes peeking out from a couture gown were bound to make quite a statement.

The very best kind.

To most fans, Julia is an amazing dichotomy: beloved for her “down home” attitude and humor (partially built by her genuine-feeling roles in Mystic Pizza and Steel Magnolias), but also lauded as one of the most beautiful and glamorous stars of a generation. Her giant, warm smile never fails to shine on a red carpet, and she rocks every fancy dress, and every pair of shoes she dons—or removes.

The A-list actress can look like a million bucks, with priceless emeralds strung around her neck, and yet, by taking off her sky-high black stilettos on the red carpet, she revealed that down home girl once more. The one who doesn’t take herself too seriously. A graceful, yet practical woman who probably thought, I can’t walk in these things! and just kicked them off—red carpet photographers or not.

And that’s why the public really loves her. She isn’t afraid to be true to herself, and that one little act felt like the exact breath of fresh air the uptight Cannes red carpet needed. (Though, to be fair, Susan Sarandon also played her part by showing up to the same red carpet in cute black flats.)

Julia Roberts on The Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet

Julia Roberts attends the screening of ‘Money Monster’ wearing an Armani Prive gown with satin black stilettos. George Pimentel | WireImage

So often, we see female celebrities in ridiculously high heels. One need only have watched the footwear parade on the recent Met Gala red carpet to see women tottering and baby-stepping their way up the giant stairs, looking like they might fall at any minute. At such events, spectators often hear little white lies from stars wearing five inch Louboutins, sounding something like this: “Oh, these? Aren’t they beautiful? And they’re surprisingly comfortable!” Even if it doesn’t sound believable to anyone who has worn higher than a kitten heel, society in general seems to accept it. The interviewers nod, chuckle, and move on. And many of us even follow suit, smushing our feet into tiny little strappy so-called “shoes” that make us wobble and tilt.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wearing heels when you want to. They can be an elegant addition that makes us feel confident, feminine, and tall. But there’s also nothing wrong with deciding not to, or just wearing something more practical once in a while. Julia Roberts and her barefoot romp seems to have made a silent statement that speaks to just that. And women everywhere noticed.

It was a quiet, brief little moment that, intentional or not, turned beauty standards inside out. Or, at the very least, entertained the idea of giving the beauty status quo a rest every so often, in favor of being real—a little something we at For Her like to call #SoulBeauty.

Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira

Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at carynrivadeneira.com.