Ariana DeBose made history at the 94th Annual Academy Awards on March 27 when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “West Side Story.”
DeBose, who portrayed Anita in the acclaimed remake of the popular musical, is the first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award for acting.
As she emotionally began her acceptance speech, DeBose referenced her character with gratitude and awe.
“Now you see why Anita says, ‘I want to be in America,’ because even in this weary world that we live in, dreams do come true,” she said.
In addition to thanking director Steven Speilberg for the opportunity to play Anita in the film, she spoke directly to Rita Moreno, who sat in the audience beaming with pride. It was a full-circle moment for the actresses since Moreno won the same award for the same role in 1962. Moreno also made Oscar history as the first Hispanic actress to win in the Best Supporting Actress category.
“The divine inspiration that is Rita Moreno, you’re staring at me right now and I’m so grateful,” DeBose said. “Your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you so much.”
GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis released a statement celebrating DeBose’s victory, calling it a “timely message to LGBTQ young people.”
“Ariana DeBose is an immensely talented actress and a tremendous advocate for LGBTQ people and people of color,” Ellis said in a statement shared with CNN following the ceremony. “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.”
DeBose reached out to others in the audience to not give up on their hopes for inclusion and reaching their dreams by making one more reference to the music of “West Side Story.”
“To anyone who has ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever, or you find yourself living the gray spaces, I promise you this: there is indeed a place for us,” she said.
You can watch DeBose’s full acceptance speech below.
Congrats to DeBose for her victory and electrifying performance in one of 2021’s best films!