Ariana DeBose made Oscars history last night as the first queer woman of color to win an acting award. Several actors who later came out as queer have won trophies in the past, but seeing an out and proud LGBTQ person win a major Oscar was vindicating for queer communities everywhere.

While queer people in many departments of the film industry have won Academy Awards, the only other queer actor to win an Oscar while out is Angelina Jolie, who was out as bisexual when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Girl, Interrupted in 2000. DeBose’s achievement represented a victory for both LGBTQ and Afro-Latina people, and she was clearly emotional during her speech.

“What is this?” DeBose yelled at the mic. She quickly added, “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.” She reflected on filming the part and joked that the West Side Story director Steven Spielberg is “stuck with me now!”

She then brought up “the divine inspiration that is Rita Moreno, you are staring at me right now.” Rita Moreno won the Supporting Actress award for the very same role as Anita in 1972’s West Side Story adaptation and played the character Valentina, owner of Doc’s general store, in the 2021 film. “Your Anita paved the way for tons of Anita’s like me, and I love you so much,” DeBose said.

DeBose wrapped up her speech with a callback to her younger self. “Imagine this little girl in the back seat 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. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate,” she said poignantly. “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.”

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