“History repeats itself.” A phrase often uttered by academics, historians, and social commentators alike. So often employed it can border on cliche. Yet, in the case of Ariana DeBose – it could never be truer and seems to be more akin to a prophecy on the cusp of fulfillment. You see, in 2021the actress, singer and dancer co-starred in the remake of the film classic West Side Story.
But she didn’t land just any role in the film. She portrays Anita, a role previously inhabited by industry icon Rita Moreno. Moreno won an Academy Award for the role becoming the first, and still, only Latina to ever win an acting Oscar for the 1961 film. Fast forward 40 years later and DeBose finds herself teetering on becoming only the second Latina to ever win an acting Oscar for the same role in the same film.
In taking on the role, DeBose had some very big dance shoes to fill. Yet, fill them she has. He portrayal of Anita has garnered her rave reviews and some industry hardware, including Golden Globe and SAG Awards. Making history as the first Afro-Latina and openly queer woman to win the latter. Then there is the 2021 Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
For many, DeBose ascension to the highest levels of Hollywood, may appear like a Cinderella story. However, DeBose is a seasoned vet who has been in the game for over a decade. She made her television debut in 2009, when she competed on the TV series So You Think You can dance, then cut her acting chops on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live and New York theatre circuit, serving as a cast member in Broadway productions of Motown, A Bronx Tale, Pippin and of course – Hamilton.
Then came West Side Story and the role of Anita. A role, which according to Variety, she initially did not see herself playing and refused to audition for. Yet, she was eventually cast in the role. Released in December of 2021, nothing but critical acclaim has followed.
Rolling Stone magazine perhaps putting it the most concisely, writing that “Debose…strong contender for Most Valuable Player here, whose energy—in her singing, her dancing, her line-reading, her side-eyeing—could power a metropolitan block.”Regardless of whether DeBose takes home Oscar gold, she is truly an MVP.