Ariana DeBose

Ariana DeBose reminds young Latinas that dreams do come true with historic Oscar win

Ariana DeBose makes history as first openly queer, Afro-Latina actor to win an Oscar.

Yesterday’s 94th Academy Awards ceremony saw a major iconic first for Latinas. Following in the footsteps of the legendary Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose won her first Oscar in the category of Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake.  

Rita Moreno won her Oscar in 1962 for the same role, becoming the first Latina woman to win an Oscar. Now, 60 years later, Ariana makes history as the first Afro-Latina to win the award. With Ariana’s win, the two actresses have also become part of the exclusive club of performers who have won Oscars for portraying the same character. 

Ariana DeBose

Ariana DeBose as Anita in West Side Story. (Photo via Anita DeBose on Instagram)

“Your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me. And I love you so much,” Ariana said to Rita Moreno in her speech last night. 

In her acceptance speech, Ariana also reminded young Latinas, DREAMers, and anyone who identifies with being different that dreams do come true and there is a place for everyone in America.

“You know what, now I 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 said.  

She thanked her mom and family for helping her and supporting her on her journey. Reflecting back on her childhood and how far she has come Ariana said, 

“Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus. When you look into her eyes, you see an 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.” 

“So to anybody who’s 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,” she added.

The Oscars also saw another historic first for Latinas when Disney’s Encanto won Best Animated Feature. With this win, producer Yvett Merino became the first Latina to be nominated and win in the category. 

“I am so proud to be a part of a film that puts beautiful diverse characters front and center,” she said in her speech, “and that people everywhere are seeing themselves in the film.”

Historic wins like these will continue to pave the way for future Latinas and women of color, just as Rita Moreno’s win paved the way for Ariana DeBose.

As more diverse representation in media becomes mainstream, young girls and women will see themselves and their stories reflected back. Seeing other Latinas and women of color succeeding will show them that their dreams can come true too and that achieving success is possible. 

Will Latinas make history at the 2022 Oscars this month? 

This year’s 94th Academy Awards, which will air on March 27th, is looking to be a big one for Latino nominees. From the year’s most popular animated feature Encanto to the iconic West Side Story remake, 2021 was a big year for Latinos. 

In an age where diversity and representation in media is paramount, it’s great to see more recognition for Latino and Hispanic actors. However, we are still seeing a lot of firsts as Hollywood catches up. One big first for the 2022 Oscars is Ariana DeBose’s nomination for Best Supporting Actress in her role as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake. Her nomination makes her the first ever Afro-Latino performer to receive an Oscar nomination and her win would be historic as well. 

2022 Oscars, West Side Story, Best Supporting Actress

Ariana DeBose makes history as first Afro-Latina nominated for an Oscar. (Photo via Ariana DeBose on Instagram)

If she wins, the Puerto Rican-born actress would follow in the footsteps of the legendary Rita Moreno, who won her Oscar in 1962 for the same role. Moreno’s win made her the first Latina woman to win an Oscar and DeBose’s win would make her the first Afro-Latina. The two actresses would also become part of the exclusive club of performers who have won Oscars for portraying the same character, such as Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone (“The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II,” respectively); and Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker (in “The Dark Knight” and “Joker,” respectively). 

The 2022 Oscars continue with big firsts for Latinas with their Encanto nominations. Producer Yvett Merino is nominated for Best Animated Feature, and composer Germaine Franco is the first ever Latina accepted into the Academy’s music branch for original score. 


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Other Latinas nominated for awards this year include Mexican-American filmmaker K.D. Dávila—nominated for Best Live Action Short Film for Please Hold, and Penélope Cruz, nominated Best Actress for her performance on Parallel Mothers. This is Cruz’s fourth Oscar nomination. 

In addition to our Latina ladies, several Latino and Hispanic men have also been nominated this year across various categories. 

American actor, singer, songwriter, rapper, producer, and playwright, Lin Manuel Miranda.

Nominated for Best Original Song for Encanto with “Dos orugüitas” is Lin-Manuel Miranda. His win would bring him one step closer to achieving EGOT status. In the category of Best Animated Film, Carlos López Estrada and his team have been nominated for Raya and the Last Dragon. Additionally Chilean filmmakers, Hugo Covarrubias and Tevo Díaz, hold the nomination for Best Animated Short Film for Bestia.

You might be interested: “In the Heights” colorism controversy and why accurate representation is important

Guillermo del Toro speaking at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con International on July 26, 2014. (Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The category for Best Actor may also see a Hispanic win this year with Javier Bardem’s nomination for his role as  Desi Arnaz on Being the Ricardos. Finally, in the category of Best Picture, Guillermo del Toro snags a nomination for his film Nightmare Alley.  

We hope to see many of our favorite Latinos win at the 2022 Oscars, and we’re cheering on our historic Latina nominees! Tune in on March 27th to see who the winners will be!