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Ariana Debose, the First Queer Woman of Color to Win an Oscar

By Tara Krump

Image via NBC News

The 2022 Oscars have recently just passed, but almost everyone has been talking about the infamous Will Smith slap that occurred. This incident has spread all over social media and has unfortunately taken away attention from amazing awards that were given and events that took place. There were so many extraordinary and historical movie wins and actor wins, such as the first queer woman of color winning best-supporting actress for the 2021 film West Side Story, Ariana Debose.

Ariana Debose was born in Raleigh, NC, on January 25, 1991. Debose is of Puerto Rican, Black, and Italian descent. She also identifies as queer as of 2009. She made her television debut on So You Think You Can Dance in 2009. She was also cast in multiple musicals in local theaters such as Hairspray, Bring it On, and then moved to perform on Broadway in Pippin. Her career skyrocketed from there when she was invited to join the ensemble cast for one of the biggest musical theater productions in history, Hamilton.


Image via Buzzfeed

One project Ariana Debose is very well known for is being an ensemble member in Hamilton. She played multiple mini roles in the musical, but they were usually the most significant ones. Her acting always made people keep an eye on her because she always brought characters to her roles. One of her ensemble roles was “The Bullet.” In Hamilton, the bullet is the same bullet that shot Hamilton dead and had almost shot him earlier in the story. This role is extremely important because the bullet signifies the march of death coming towards Hamilton. Even though this role was not a verbal one, the acting part of it was extremely difficult to do, and Ariana Debose played it perfectly. She is known for being one of the most famous ensemble members in the original Hamilton cast. Another role she played was the bystander of Phillip Hamilton. Although this role was small, the energy and spunk she brought to the character made her so likable and the song very upbeat. There was also a very funny moment with one of her roles, King George’s messenger when she whispers something in his ear. He turns around, and she starts laughing but quickly realizes he’s being serious, which got the whole crowd laughing. This was my first time seeing Ariana Debose on screen, and she immediately caught my eye.

The Prom

The Prom was originally a musical on Broadway but was turned into a movie on Netflix released in 2020 with Ariana Debose as one of the main characters. Her character, Alyssa Greene, was a perfect girl to her parents and school with a big secret: she has a girlfriend, and her whole school is extremely homophobic. The movie is about her and her girlfriend Emma overcoming the challenges they face in a homophobic high school, and Alyssa’s character becoming stronger and less fearful of what everyone thinks about her. Especially since when Debose was younger and wanted to go to prom with another girl, she brought a lot of character to Alyssa and didn’t seem like she was acting. In the scene where she cries after she comes out to her mom, her tears seem so real and it didn’t feel like it was scripted. It just felt like she did what she had to do at that moment. You could also hear the emotion whenever she was singing, whether it be happy, or sad.

West Side Story

Image via NPR

West Side Story is my favorite Ariana Debose project. The movie was recently remade in December 2021, with Debose starring as Anita. Anita is a character who is curious, smart, and has big dreams. She wants to stay in New York and make it big as a fashion designer, while her boyfriend wants to go back to Puerto Rico. Anita is a character that has so much spunk and isn’t afraid to stand up to anyone or anything. In the original West Side Story, Rita Moreno played Anita, and Ariana Debose filled her shoes perfectly. Anita kept her sassy and sarcastic personality throughout the years. My favorite number with Ariana Debose is America, where Anita is singing about the best parts of America, but her boyfriend keeps bringing up the negatives. Her amazing voice and dancing brought so much joy and fun to this number and kept me entertained the whole time. She also had good emotional moments in the movie as well. When her boyfriend gets murdered, the emotion she carries home to tell her step-sister is heartbreaking. You can feel her devastation and pain.

Ariana Debose is an amazing actor, and she has so much to offer the acting community. Especially with her being the first queer woman of color to win an Oscar, she is extremely influential and deserves all the love and fame she has. She is an inspiration to me, and many young actors in the world, and I can only imagine what else she’ll accomplish in the near future.

Written by writer Tara Kurup

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