The 2023 BAFTAs on Sunday were supposed to be about the awards, but social media is focused on just one musical performance from the evening.
Oscar-winning “West Side Story” star Ariana DeBose performed a medley during the British awards show, celebrating the role of women in entertainment.
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Included in the medley were takes on “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” and “We Are Family”. In between those, though, was an original rap paying tribute to the night’s female nominees.
Sisters are doing it for themselves! The incredible @ArianaDeBose opens the 2023 #EEBAFTAs with an iconic performance! ✨ pic.twitter.com/G9YgKN2e1t
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) February 19, 2023
“All the ladies in the room, supporting and leading all here I presume,” DeBose rapped “Hong Chau; Dolly D; Kerry; and Carey with a C; Dame Emma, I’m so fond; Ana girl, you were great in Blonde; Danielle D, you broke my heart; Michelle, I’ve loved you from the start.”
She continued, getting more theatrical, “Angela Bassett, did the thing. Viola Davis my Woman King. Blanchett, Cate, you’re a genius; Jamie Lee, you are all of us.”
While DeBose and many in the audience appeared to be having fun with the rap, many on Twitter who viewed the clip mocked it.
ariana debose you’re an oscar winner you don’t have to do this i promise 😭 pic.twitter.com/0b4pjl3OTX
— 𝒂𝒓𝒂𝒎 (@aramnotagoat) February 19, 2023
Some noted that even in the audience reaction shots, the nominees named in the rap often looked confused.
The reaction shots in the Ariana Debose BAFTA performance are sending me pic.twitter.com/ru4m7BRWL7
— Nicol (@nikowl) February 20, 2023
how many times have i watched the ariana debose video pic.twitter.com/dt3leKTJUO
— hunter harris (@hunteryharris) February 20, 2023
Dolly de Leon makes history as the first Filipina to be mentioned in Ariana DeBose's BAFTA rap 😍 pic.twitter.com/c6KQFiw1Vo
— Wendell (@RhodeToLove) February 20, 2023
Idk what you’re talking about, Ariana DeBose killed it here pic.twitter.com/oqwOJReSAR
— Evan Thomas (@EvanDerekThomas) February 20, 2023
In particular, Twitter users made a meme of DeBose’s line, “Angela Bassett did the thing,” with many wondering exactly what thing she did.
angela bassett did the thing pic.twitter.com/cO7pZmrU0Q
— NOSTALGIA (@notgwendalupe) February 20, 2023
ANGELA BASSETT DID THE THING
— Van Lathan Jr (@VanLathan) February 20, 2023
Ariana DeBose wasn’t lying!! Angela Bassett did do the thing pic.twitter.com/VhcmA5OMyc
— euan (@imeuanxo) February 20, 2023
Angela Bassett as Tina Turner. That’s the THING she did. pic.twitter.com/HG2SUzcq8o
— PRADANGEL (@angeIictearss) February 20, 2023
“angela bassett did the thing” pic.twitter.com/yUqdajUvP0
— crazy broke asian (@tribranchvo) February 20, 2023
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It appears, though, that the online attention from the rap was too much for DeBose, who deactivated her Twitter account the following day.
Ariana DeBose has deactivated her Twitter account after going viral for her performance at the 2023 #BAFTAs. pic.twitter.com/CTd2dvJW5o
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) February 20, 2023
Though some users did point out that DeBose had been an irregular Twitter user to begin with, deactivating her account when the company was bought by Elon Musk, and only returning a few days ago.
I’ve seen many tweets saying Ariana DeBose was bullied off Twitter when she deactivated her account after EM bought the site & reactivated two days ago to tweet something like “trying this out again” but stayed private. Clearly she already had a rocky relationship with the app. https://t.co/vfcR8KvKNK
— Raven Brunner (@raventbrunner) February 20, 2023
Meanwhile, others criticized users for focusing on just the rap portion of the performance, highlighting instead the strength of the medley as a whole.
Since I’m only seeing the rap on here, here’s some of my FAVOURITE parts of my Ariana DeBose’s opening performance last night at the #EEBAFTAs! 💃🏼 She danced and sang up a STORM on that iconic stage! So proud! pic.twitter.com/28VmPLS84n
— Benjamin Rauhala (@brauhala) February 20, 2023
In an interview with Variety, BAFTAs producer Nick Bullen defended DeBose from her critics online.
“I think it’s incredibly unfair, to be frank. I absolutely loved it. Everybody I’ve spoken to who was in the room absolutely loved it,” he said.
“She’s a huge star, she was amazing. The songs she was singing are very familiar songs, the room was clapping, and people were sort of dancing to the music. That rap section in the middle, mentioning the women in the room, was because it’s been a great year for women in film, and we wanted to celebrate that,” the producer continued.
“And here is a woman of colour who is at the absolute top of her game. And she’s opening the Baftas with a song that said so much on so many levels,” Bullen added. “All of those mentions, I felt, from the moment we were rehearsing it right through to the transmission last night, spoke to what we wanted to do.”