At the 94th Academy Awards Ceremony, Ariana DeBose made history as the first openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar in the category Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
The 31-year-old North Carolina native was honored Sunday for her role as Anita in the musical film “West Side Story,” in which she has received widespread recognition and critical acclaim. More extraordinarily, this is her first Oscar nomination and win.
During her acceptance speech, DeBose referenced her character Anita, saying “Now you see why Anita says ‘I want to be in America.’ Because even in this weary world that we live in, dreams do come true. And that’s really a heartening thing right now.”
Speaking about how she is breaking barriers as a queer Afro-Latina woman, she concluded her speech with a heartwarming message for other marginalized groups. “To anybody who has ever questioned your identity or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.”
The Academy Awards isn’t the first to recognize DeBose’s phenomenal performance as Anita. Previously, she won a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and a BAFTA for the role.
In 1962, Rita Moreno won the same award for her role as Anita in the original “West Side Story.” 60 years ago, she paved the way by becoming the first Hispanic actress to win in the best supporting actress category. DeBose paid tribute to Moreno during her acceptance speech, graciously thanking her for making it possible for other “Anitas” in Hollywood.
“Ariana DeBose is an immensely talented actress and a tremendous advocate for LGBTQ people and people of color,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s President & CEO, said in a statement. “She not only made history tonight as the first queer woman of color to win an Oscar, but she sent a beautiful and timely message to LGBTQ young people. I hope LGBTQ youth around the world saw her win, heard her speak and recognize that they too should dream big.”
Watch the full acceptance speech below.