Actress Ariana DeBose made history last night after winning an Oscar at the 94th annual Academy Awards ceremony — becoming the first Afro-Latina, openly queer woman of colour to do so.
DeBose, 31, won the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role for her performance as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s 2021 revamp of West Side Story, based on the 1957 Broadway musical.
In her heartfelt acceptance speech, DeBose spoke on the importance of representation.
“Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus. When you look into her eyes, you see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate,” DeBose said.
“So, to anybody who’s ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: there is indeed a place for us,” she added.
DeBose’s award comes six decades after Rita Moreno won an Oscar for the same role in 1962, becoming the first Latina actress to win an Oscar, placing the two amongst a small group of actors who have both won Academy Awards playing the same character (other examples of this include Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone in The Godfather and Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker) — and being the first women to join this elite group of performers.
DeBose won amongst fellow nominees Jesse Buckley (The Lost Daughter), Judi Dench (Belfast), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog) and Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard) in the category of actress in a supporting role.
DeBose’s outstanding performance also led her to win her first Golden Globe and British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) — and it made her the first queer woman of colour to be recognized in an acting category and the first Latina woman to win a Screen Actors Guild Film Award.
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