Ariana DeBose makes history, winning an Academy Award for her portrayal of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.
The actress follows in the footsteps of EGOT winner Rita Moreno, who won in 1962 for the same role. She also is the first Afro-Latina and openly queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar.
“To anyone who questions your identity — ever ever ever or find yourself living in gray spaces, I promise you this, there is a place for us,” DeBose said accepting her award on stage at the Dolby Theatre Sunday night with a nod to one of the most famous lyrics in West Side Story.
DeBose is also the first actress to win an Oscar in a Steven Spielberg film. She thanked Moreno who plays Valentina and served as executive producer of the film. “I’m so grateful. Your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you so much,” she said.
DeBose started her professional career as a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, before making her 2012 Broadway debut in Bring It On. After Bring It On, DeBose went on to appear in six Broadway shows, including the original cast of Hamilton. Most recently, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her role as Disco Donna in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. It was during the run of this show that she auditioned for West Side Story.
“I just wasn’t sure if it was the right thing at the right time,” she previously told Broadway Direct about hesitancy in taking on the iconic character. “It came out of nowhere. I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t expecting it.”
DeBose’s former Hamilton co-star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, skipped the ceremony “out of caution” citing on Twitter that his wife, Vanessa, tested positive for COVID-19.
Miranda also directed tick, tick…BOOM! this season. On the red carpet before the ceremony, Andrew Garfield, nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jonathan Larson in tick, tick…BOOM!, caught up with his former co-star Vanessa Hudgens. “This is like our last night talking about Jonathan Larson,” he discussed with her about celebrating the late composer.
CODA took home the Best Picture trophy. The movie is about a teenager, the only hearing member in a deaf family who wants to become a singer. The screenplay is now being adapted into a stage musical.
Troy Kotsur, who starred in Broadway’s Big River in 2003, took home Best Supporting Actor for his role in CODA. He made history as the first deaf actor to take home an Academy Award. His co-star, Marlee Matlin, previously won in 1986 for Children of a Lesser God. “ I want to thank all the wonderful deaf theater stages, where I was allowed and given the opportunity to develop my craft as an actor,” Kotsur said during his acceptance speech.
Other Broadway highlights throughout the night include Liza Minnelli making a surprise appearance to help Lady Gaga announce the Best Picture winner and a tribute to Stephen Sondheim during the In Memoriam segment. While showing off a tour of the new Academy Museum and looking at Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz during the ceremony, Wanda Sykes gave another nod to Broadway, in a joke that the shoes were worn by Billy Porter in Kinky Boots.
It was a big night for Broadway in Hollywood as the industry celebrated the crafts of those who got their start on stage.
Last updated and effective as of January 14, 2019
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