Ariana DeBose Breaks Barriers with Oscar Win


Niko Tavernise

DeBose as Anita from West Side Story during the musical number America.

Ruby Morris, Staff Writer

When I first watched West Side Story, I was taken aback by its beauty. The music was spectacular, the costume design was near perfect, and the cinematography was the best i’ve seen in a while. The acting was amazing as well, but one actress stood out to me above all the others. Ariana Debose played Anita, a Puerto Rican immigrant and sister to the lead character Maria.

To me, DeBose was the defining presence of the film. She flawlessly portrayed Anita’s funny and sarcastic nature, yet moved me to tears during her final lines. Her singing, her dancing, her everything was just perfect. 

Honestly, I don’t really care about the Oscars. I’m not a huge movie buff and celebrity culture doesn’t interest me, but I decided to watch them this year to see the announcement for Best Supporting Actress. Unsurprisingly, DeBose won the award.

DeBose became the first queer woman of color, the first Afro-Latina, and the second Latina to ever win the award. The first? Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the original 1961 production of West Side Story.

In DeBose’s speech, she thanked her mother, her co-stars, and Moreno. DeBose said to Moreno, “Your Anita paved the way for Anitas like me, and I love you so much.”

I believe that DeBose’s winning was a huge milestone for many marginalized communities. I hope that people watching around the country got to see what I think is a moment in history: not just for the Academy Awards, but for society as a whole. 

In the final lines of her speech, DeBose quoted West Side’s song “Somewhere,” sung in the film by Moreno. 

“So to anyone who has ever questioned your identity, ever, ever, ever, or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.