There’s a place for actresses who play Anita in “West Side Story“, and it’s on the Oscars stage!
Ariana DeBose completed her awards season sweep at Sunday’s Academy Awards, taking home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her breakthrough turn in the fiery role that won Rita Moreno the same award almost exactly 60 years ago to the day.
“What is this?!” an excited DeBose screamed as she held the coveted gold trophy. “Now you see why that Anita says ‘I want to be in America,’ because even in this weary world that we live in, dreams do come true, and that’s really a heartening thing right now. If I took the time to say thank you to every single beautiful person who has lifted me up on this stage, you fine people would be sitting here until next Oscars, so I’m not going to do that, but just allow me to say that it was the summer of a lifetime and I am that most privileged and grateful to have spent it will all of you.”
“My god. Thank you, Steven Spielberg. You’re stuck with me now,” she continued.
She also thanked Moreno, who first played the role in the 1961 original.
“Thank you, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Tony Kushner and the divine inspiration that is Rita Moreno, you are staring at me right now, and I’m so grateful your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me. And I love you so much.”
DeBose also had a few words for her family and her partner, Sue.
“I’m gonna wrap this up and talk about my family. My mother who is here tonight. Mama, I love you with my whole heart. And this is as much yours as it is mine,” the 31-year-old actress, who was a vision in red, said. “Some of my tribesman, my family, my love, Sue, Jonathan, Diana, Anthony Calamita, I couldn’t do what I do without each and every one of you.”
She also used the moment to encourage those questioning their identity to look to her story and know that there is always a place for them, in the world of performing arts or any other.
“Lastly, imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford Focus, you see a queer, openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength in life through art,” she said. “And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate.”
“So, to anybody who has 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 continued, wrapping up her emotional speech.
In response to Ariana DeBose making history as the first out queer woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, GLAAD’s President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis released the following 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.”
GLAAD is a a media advocacy organization for LGBTQ acceptance.
DeBose is just the second Latina to win Best Supporting Actress, following Moreno, and the award also makes her the first out LGBT Afro-Latinx person to win an acting Oscar. For her show-stopping performance in Steven Spielberg’s epic musical, she also won this year’s BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG Award and Critics’ Choice Award, among many others.
“I’ll tell you what, this is an Oscar part,” Moreno told ET at the 74th Directors Guild of America Awards earlier this month. “And I can tell you the scene that seals it, and it’s the scene in the candy store. Because now I can say things like that. I couldn’t then, but that’s the scene that absolutely sealed the deal.”
Moreno added of the devastating onscreen moment, “Here’s the weird thing: I was in that scene with her. I was Anita, but I’m not anymore. She’s Anita now, and that was really surreal.”
The 2022 Oscars are live Sunday, March 27 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC.
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