West Side Story star Ariana DeBose makes queer history with Oscar win

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Image: 20th Century Fox

West Side Story actress Ariana DeBose has made history with her Oscar win for her role in the Steven Spielberg-directed musical remake.

The 94th Academy Awards are underway in Los Angeles, and DeBose received the first broadcast award for Best Supporting Actress.

In West Side Story, the actress plays the key role of Anita, the girlfriend of gang leader Bernardo. In the film she sings the famous number America.

DeBose is the first queer woman of colour and only the second Latina actor to win an Oscar, Variety reported.

In the original West Side Story, Rita Moreno played Anita. Moreno also won the best supporting actress Oscar for the role in 1962.

The duo are the first women to win a pair of Oscars for playing the same role.

Ariana DeBose says ‘dreams do come true’

Ariana DeBose accepted her Oscar to a standing ovation, and also gave a shout-out to Rita Moreno who was in the audience.

“I’m so grateful – your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you,” she said.

“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. That’s a really heartening thing right now.”

In her speech, the 31-year-old actress also recalled her early days as an aspiring performer.

“Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus, look into her eyes,” she said.

“You see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength in life through art.

“That’s what I believe we are here to celebrate. So to anybody who has ever questioned your identity, ever, ever, ever — or you find yourself living in the gray spaces — I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.”

In total, West Side Story is nominated for seven Oscars at the 94th annual ceremony. The original film was nominated for 11, and won 10.

West Side Story is streaming in Australia now on Disney+.

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