Ariana DeBose just made queer history at the 2022 Oscars!!!
On Sunday, DeBose won the Academy Award for best supporting actress category for her performance as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story. The win marked the first time that an Afro-Latina and an openly queer actor of color has ever won an acting Oscar.
This is a huge win for both the LGBTQ+ community and actors of color, who have fought tirelessly for inclusion on screen and behind-the-scenes. The Oscars—which have historically been, um, extremely white—seem to finally, maybe, be catching up with the times. While it really shouldn’t be remarkable for a queer woman of color to win an acting awards in 2022, the gravity of this moment cannot be understated. Finally, girls of color and queer girls are getting the gay representation in entertainment they’ve long deserved!!!!
During her acceptance speech, DeBose noted how extraordinary this moment is for women like her: “You see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength and life through art. And that is, I think, what we’re here to celebrate. So if anyone has ever questioned your identity, I promise you this — there is indeed a place for us.”
She also notably paid homage to Rita Moreno, who portrayed Anita in the 1961 iteration of West Side Story. Moreno famously won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her turn as Anita in 1962 and was the first Latina to ever win an Oscar. As Moreno was in the audience on Sunday, DeBose addressed her directly in her speech and told her that she was “so grateful that your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you so much.”
This is now the third time a pair of actors have both won Oscars for playing the same character. Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro both won for their turn as Vito Corleone (in The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, respectively), and the late Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix both took home the top acting award as the Joker (in The Dark Knight and Joker, respectively).
In the wake of DeBose’s win, GLAAD’s President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis released a statement calling her out as “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,” wrote Ellis. “I hope LGBTQ youth around the world saw her win, heard her speak and recognize that they too should dream big.”