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Ariana DeBose Is the First Out Woman of Color To Win Acting Oscar

Ariana DeBose winning an Oscar
Via Getty Images

She won for her role in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.


Ariana DeBose won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress Sunday for her portrayal of Anita in Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of West Side Story.

She's the first out queer woman of color to receive an award for acting at the Academy Awards.

While accepting the award, DeBose told the audience, "Imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford Focus. Look into her eyes. You see an openly queer woman of color and Afro-Latina who found her strength in life through arts. And that's what I believe we're here to celebrate."

"So anybody who's ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever or you find yourself living in the gray spaces: I promise you that there is indeed a place for us," she added.

Before Sunday, DeBose had already won awards in the Best Supporting Actress category of the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

DeBose was a favorite to win over the other actors in the category, which included Kirsten Dunst for The Power of The Dog, Jessie Buckley for The Lost Daughter, Judi Dench for Belfast, and Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard.

It was DeBose's first academy award nomination. The awards were hosted by actors Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and lesbian comedian Wanda Sykes.

Born and raised in North Carolina, DeBose studied dance from age 3. She landed on the national radar in 2009 as one of the top 20 competitors on So You Think You Can Dance. She then appeared in the national tour of Bring It On, and on Broadway as Mary Wilson in Motown and in the revival of Pippin (where she understudied and took over as Leading Player for a time).

"I am a Black-identifying biracial queer Afro-Latina. I say this frequently, and some people don't really get it, but most people do.... I am America. I am damn near a member of just about every marginalized community," DeBose told The Advocate's sister publication Out in November, referencing the iconic song she sings David Alvarez in Westside Story. "That is not a red badge of courage, because I have opportunity."

"Every time we see a woman elected to office, there's another crack in the glass ceiling ... Every BIPOC woman or LGBTQ [community] member who gets an opportunity to play a leading role or play a really well-developed character -- a human with agency who might be a little bit messy but who is fully fleshed out -- that is a win."

Watch her win the award below:

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