Ariana DeBose becomes first openly queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar

Ariana DeBose raises her Oscar trophy.
Ariana DeBose accepts the supporting actress award for her performance in “West Side Story” during the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

With a sweep of her “West Side Story” character’s skirt, Ariana DeBose has swept into history as the first openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar in an acting category.

DeBose beat out fellow nominees Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”), Judi Dench (“Belfast”), Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”) and Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) to take home the supporting actress trophy Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Accepting her award, DeBose described herself as an “openly queer woman of color, an Afro Latina who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate. Anybody who’s ever questioned your identity ever or find yourself living in the gray spaces? I promise you this. There is indeed a place for us.


“Now you see why Anita says, ‘I want to be in America,’” she added. “Because even in this weird/weary world that we live in, dreams do come true. And that’s really a heartening thing right now.”

‘CODA’ became a feel-good best picture winner and Jessica Chastain triumphed for ‘Tammy Faye,’ but all was overshadowed by best actor winner Will Smith.

March 27, 2022

In Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” remake, the biracial DeBose plays Anita, a part Rita Moreno played in the original movie.

“I’m so grateful,” DeBose said to Moreno from the stage. “Your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you so much.”

Like DeBose did this year, Moreno won a supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal in the 1961 film.

“Honestly, ‘West Side Story’ is the first time I’ve ever been considered for a role that is something I actually am,” the DeBose, 31, told The Times in March. “I am Puerto Rican. My father is Puerto Rican. I’m a mixed-race human being. I am Afro Latina, and I’m Puerto Rican. Isn’t that interesting?”

Times intern Kristina Garcia contributed to this report.