Ariana DeBose’s BAFTAs rap was mocked so ruthlessly that she left Twitter
An executive producer of this year’s British Academy Film Awards has defended Ariana DeBose after a video of the “West Side Story” star performing at the ceremony went viral on social media.
In an interview with Variety published Monday, producer Nick Bullen deemed any mockery of DeBose’s now-infamous BAFTAs rap “incredibly unfair” and declared that “everybody ... who was in the room absolutely loved it.” The 76th BAFTAs took place Sunday at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
After BAFTAs host Richard E. Grant delivered his opening monologue, DeBose and her backup dancers launched into a crowd-pleasing medley of “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” and “We Are Family” — including a rap interlude spotlighting the female nominees that has been simultaneously mocked and championed on Twitter.
Ariana DeBose has immersed herself in dance; she uses that to imbue her Anita with powerful physicality in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”
“She’s a huge star, she was amazing,” Bullen told Variety.
“The songs she was singing are very familiar songs, the room was clapping, and people were sort of dancing to the music. That rap section in the middle, mentioning the women in the room, was because it’s been a great year for women in film, and we wanted to celebrate that.”
In a widely circulated clip of the performance, DeBose raps, “Hong Chau, Dolly D, Kerry and Carey with a C. Dame Emma, I’m so fond. Ana, girl, you were great in ‘Blonde.’ Danielle D, you broke my heart. Michelle, I loved you from the start. Angela Bassett did the thing. Viola Davis, my woman king. Blanchett, Cate, you’re a genius. And Jamie Lee, you are all of us.”
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After BAFTA tweeted the video, Twitter users joked about experiencing extreme “secondhand embarrassment” on DeBose’s behalf and imagined people in the audience “praying that she won’t say their name next.” Representatives for DeBose — who deactivated her Twitter account shortly after the BAFTAs aired — did not immediately respond Tuesday to The Times’ request for comment.
Despite the ridicule, plenty of Twitter users couldn’t get enough of DeBose’s performance, which has already begun to accumulate a cult following.
“Helpppp I can’t get this banger out of my head,” tweeted @MissTashh_. “I’m going insane with the extreme levels of camp. (I’m going to sue BAFTA for emotional distress).”
“Ariana DeBose’s rap at BAFTA is simultaneously awful and amazing,” tweeted @mrbrianrowe. “Like, I can’t stop watching it.”
“my twitter feed is an echochamber of the small but loud community of ~two dozen people whose lives have been fundamentally changed by Ariana DeBose’s BAFTAs rap,” tweeted @catrcardenas.
Like Rita Moreno before her, the Afro Latina wins a supporting actress Oscar for her work in ‘West Side Story’ — and makes history.
During his Variety Q&A, Bullen confirmed that DeBose’s showstopping medley was crafted entirely by the Oscar-winning actor and her team. He also implied that the water-cooler moment was always intended to go viral, noting that “social media presence was incredibly important to us.”
“We want to engage all audiences,” Bullen said.
“We don’t want to just go for the traditional British award ceremony audience. ... The messaging to younger people was important to us. The messaging to the diverse groups around Britain was important to us. We wanted to get the message out there that this is a show for everybody.”
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Ultimately, Bullen blamed people who “don’t like change” for roasting DeBose on social media.
“There’s a view that the BAFTAs have to be this slightly stiff, traditional British, middle-England messaging,” he said.
“But American awards shows have much more razzmatazz, much more showbiz and perhaps a broader range of people being involved. We felt we’re not about revolution, we’re about evolution. Let’s just evolve, let’s just move forward with some gentle changes that start to lay out the stall of what this show should be and where we should be with it.”
See more reactions to DeBose’s buzzy BAFTAs rap below.
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