Oscar winner Ariana DeBose proves 'there is indeed a place' for queer actors of color
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Ariana DeBose’s historic best supporting actress win at this year’s Oscars ceremony was, somehow, the most predictable thing to happen that evening. After having delivered a dynamic performance as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s remake of the 1961 film “West Side Story,” DeBose was considered the easy favorite in her category. So it was perhaps easy to forget the gravity of the moment in late March: when she took the stage on film’s biggest night as the first openly queer woman of color and the first Afro Latina to both be nominated and win an Academy Award for acting.
By that point in awards season, DeBose was well-acquainted with being first. When the Oscar nominees were announced in early February, she was one of two openly LGBTQ actors tapped by the academy, alongside Kristen Stewart, who was nominated for best actress for her leading role in “Spencer.” It had been two decades since an out actor had been nominated, when Ian McKellen was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in 2001’s “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”
The same month, DeBose took home the Screen Actors Guild award for female actor in a supporting role, making guild history as the first openly queer woman of color and the first Latina to win an individual film prize. Previously, only a handful of Latina actors had been nominated for acting awards by the guild — including Salma Hayek and Jennifer Lopez — though no openly queer women of color.
But despite her string of milestones, the groundbreaking nature of her Oscar win was far from lost on DeBose, 31. As she had done throughout the film’s release and months of award buzz, DeBose acknowledged the groundwork that had been laid by the trailblazing Rita Moreno, who became the first Latina Oscar winner, in 1962, for the same role.