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Ariana DeBose Makes Oscar History With ‘West Side Story’ Win

She becomes first Afro-Latina and openly queer actress of color to win an acting prize

With her win for Best Supporting Actress as Anita in “West Side Story,” Ariana DeBose has become the first openly queer actress of color and the first Afro-Latina performer to win an acting Oscar.

DeBose is only the second Latina to take home an Oscar, the first being Rita Moreno for the original “West Side Story” from 1961, in which she also played Anita.

“In this weary world that we live in, dreams do come true, and that’s a heartening thing right now,” DeBose said in her acceptance speech.

She thanked her mother and told viewers to imagine her as a little girl sitting in the backseat of a white Ford Focus dreaming of the future. “This queer, Afro-Latina actress who found her strength in life through art … To anyone who ever questions your identity, ever, ever, or find yourself in the gray spaces, there is a place for us.”

In response to the historic win, GLAAD released a statement praising DeBose.

“Ariana DeBose is an immensely talented actress and a tremendous advocate for LGBTQ people and people of color,” the statement said. “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.”

The character Anita is only the third character to score two Oscar wins, after Don Vito Corleone in “The Godfather” (Marlon Brando) and “The Godfather Part II” (Robert De Niro); and the Joker in “The Dark Knight” (Heath Ledger) and “Joker” (Joaquin Phoenix). DeBose’s win could also be the first of many potential Oscars landmarks on Sunday night. Take a look at all of them here.

In speaking with TheWrap earlier this year, DeBose called the process of playing Anita and starring in Steven Spielberg’s film “incredibly healing.”

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a mixed-race individual,” she said. “My mother is white and my father is Puerto Rican and I didn’t grow up with access to my culture. When I was growing up, I was one of the only people who looked like me in my community. ‘West Side Story’ gave me the opportunity to completely immerse myself in a way that I had not been afforded until then. So for me, ‘West Side Story’ has been an incredibly healing project.” 

DeBose has had a terrific year, hosting “SNL” and co-starring in the Apple TV+ musical comedy series “Schmigadoon!” Next up she’s set to star in the superhero movie from Sony “Kraven the Hunter.”

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