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The Uplifting Reason Ariana DeBose's Oscar Nomination Made Her Cry

If anyone knows the importance of getting nominated for an Oscar, it's Ariana DeBose. The "West Side Story" star was one of the few lucky artists to have their names called during the Academy's 2022 nomination reveal ceremony on February 8. DeBose, who plays the iconic character Anita in Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story," was nominated in the best supporting actress category for her performance. She reportedly received the news while out on a run with her best friend. "We were by the highway, and I could not hear a thing, but their faces were so expressive that I took it as a good sign," DeBose said of her team, speaking to Variety. "I'm pretty sure I scared every runner on the East River [with my reaction]. I'm trying to be a normal person, but nothing about this is normal."

DeBose's portrayal of Anita in Spielberg's 2021 revival of the beloved Broadway musical has already earned her a Golden Globe for best supporting actress in a motion picture, so there's a really strong chance she could take home the Oscar as well. But the chance at scooping up a prized Academy Award statue is not the most meaningful thing about getting nominated to DeBose. There's actually something much bigger at play for the former "Blue Bloods" star, which was enough to make her break down into tears following her nomination on Tuesday. 

DeBose is the first openly queer woman of color to receive an Oscar nomination

Until 2022, there has never been an Afro-Latina actor or openly queer woman of color to be nominated for an Academy Award in the show's 94-year history, as Variety notes in their report on Ariana DeBose's nomination; she just changed that. The "West Side Story" star reacted in real-time to learning about her history-making nod, telling Variety, "For me, it's a monumental moment," and going on to say, "And now I'm crying ... It's overwhelming. And also, it's paramount because I didn't have that growing up. When people ask me about representation, I frequently say, 'If you can see it, then you can be it.' I believe in our young people; we need them. And they need to see themselves in the work that we make. So if I can do that for one or two young people in the world, then it will have been worth it."

DeBose, who is of Puerto Rican descent and has never shied away from discussing her queer identity, joins "Spencer" lead Kristin Stewart as the two first openly queer female actors to be nominated in Oscar history. Their respective nominations also break a 20-year dry spell for openly queer actors receiving Academy Awards nods following Sir Ian McKellan's nom in 2002. 

She's also now part of an exclusive club of actors who've been nominated by the Academy for playing a role that was previously portrayed by someone else. In this case, it was legendary screen star Rita Moreno who first played Anita and was awarded the Oscar for best supporting actress in 1962. "It's really special," DeBose said. "[Moreno's] a special talent and a really special woman to me and to the industry, and I'm honored to be alongside her for this entire journey."