West Side Story star Ariana DeBose makes history by becoming the first openly queer woman of colour to win an Oscar for her role as Anita in the Steven Spielberg-directed movie. Ariana has quickly become a rising star in Hollywood raking up impressive nominations and now an academy award that proves she is here to stay.
A broadway veteran herself, DeBose was initially wary about stepping into the 90-year-old Oscar-winning actress’ shoes for the film, she powered through her hesitation.
In an interview, she said that she turned down the role, that won her this prestigious and historic award, 4 times before finally accepting it.
In her acceptance speech, an emotional Ariana, while acknowledging her award, said ‘”Even in this weird world we live in, dreams do come true.”
She also showed her immense gratitude to the director of the film, Steven Spielberg and to the incredible Rita Moreno, dancer, singer and general American idol, on whom her character Anita was based on.
“Your Anita paved the way for plenty of Anitas like me, and i love you,” she said. In 1962, Rita Moreno won the same award for the same role. Moreno starred as Anita in the original “West Side Story” film and made history herself as the first Hispanic actress to win in the best supporting actress category.
DeBose is a groundbreaker in her own right, the first Afro-Latina and openly LGBTQ actor to win in the category. In her acceptance speech, DeBose said she found her “strength in life through art.”
“Imagine this small girl within the back seat of any white Ford Focus, look at her eyes. You see a queer woman, an openly queer women and Afro-Latina who found strength in her life through art. And that’s what i feel we’re here to celebrate,” DeBose said.
DeBose has already won multiple prestigious awards such as Baftas, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, for the film.
She ended her speech by saying, to anyone here who “has ever questioned your identity” or “lived within the grey spaces”, she added, “there is, indeed, an area for us”.
She also thanked her mother, who came as her guest and was in the audience. DeBose spoke movingly about her experience as a queer Afro-Latina woman.
“This is magic,” a thrilled Ariana said, waving her Oscar backstage, “but it’s magic that did not come without effort.”
Praising her win and her spirit, GLAAD’s President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement, “Ariana DeBose is an immensely talented actress and a tremendous advocate for LGBTQ people and people of color. She not only made history tonight as the first queer woman of color to win an Oscar, but she sent a beautiful and timely message to LGBTQ young people. I hope LGBTQ youth around the world saw her win, heard her speak and recognize that they too should dream big.”
This is her first Oscar nomination and win. Many more to come!