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The Surprising Way Ariana DeBose Just Made Oscars History

"West Side Story" star Ariana DeBose became the first actor to strike gold during the 2022 Oscars, taking home the trophy for Best Actress in a Supporting role for her work as Anita.

For those who haven't seen the film, Anita is the best friend of Maria (Rachel Zegler), and she works with her as a seamstress. The lively character is also the girlfriend of Bernardo (David Alvarez) who heads the Sharks street gang and is Maria's brother. In this territorial war between the Puerto Rican Sharks and their rivals, the white Jets, Anita is on the side of the Sharks — but Maria soon finds herself falling for Tony (Ansel Elgort). Tony is the former head of the Jets, but he finds himself drawn back into the neighborhood conflict. Maria and Tony become a New York-bound Romeo and Juliet as they struggle to get away from the conflict pulling them apart, leaving Anita, Bernardo and their friends stuck in the middle ... and in a conflict which can only end tragically. 

DeBose's fantastic performance more than deserved the win. However, by claiming victory, DeBose also accomplished a special feat that no other Oscar winner has managed before her.

Ariana DeBose is the first openly queer Afro-Latina actor to win an Oscar

Per NBC News – and her acceptance speech — DeBose has become the first openly queer Afro-Latina actor to win an Oscar in her category. Per NPR, she also made history with her nomination. During her speech, the actress said, "Imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford Focus, look into her eyes. You see a queer, openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength in life through art." 

Quoting the lyrics of the "West Side Story" iconic song "Somewhere (There's A Place For Us)," she added, "To anybody who has ever questioned your identity, ever ever, or you find yourself living in the grey spaces, I promise you this, there is indeed a place for us."

Indeed, fans on Twitter were ecstatic over her win, and the historic importance of it cannot be understated. 

In 2020, DeBose and Jo Ellen Pellman — her co-star in the Broadway production of "The Prom" — established the Unruly Hearts Initiative, which provides help and support to members of the LGBTQ+ community.  "Acknowledging my sexuality for me has gone hand in hand in my journey with identity. I'm a Black woman, I identify as Afro-Latina, and I'm queer," she told Glamour UK around that time.