If you don’t know who Ariana Debose is by now, chances are you’ve been sleeping for the past few years.
The North Carolina native, who was born in Wilmington, later studied dance in Raleigh and self identifies as queer, experienced a break-through year in 2022. As previously reported in Qnotes, she won both the Academy Award, a Golden Globe and the British BAFTA for her performance as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s remake of the classic film “West Side Story.”
That same year she was recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine. As if all that wasn’t enough, she was also invited to host the 75th annual Tony Awards for 2022.
There’s no questioning DeBose’s talent. She’s a triple threat: dancer, singer and an actor. None of that has changed but a freestyle rap and dance presentation at the 2023 BAFTAs (an acronym for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, which hosts the annual British Academy Film Awards) February 19, stirred up enough negative comments on Twitter that DeBose decided to deactivate her account.
Following her performance at the 76th annual event in London, where she celebrated the female nominees by name in a combination of dance, song and rap, the criticism kicked in from Variety, who described her performance as “a little out of breath at some points” with lyrics that “felt clumsy.”
The show’s producer, Nick Bullen, quickly came to her defense in the same publication.
“I think it’s incredibly unfair, to be frank. I absolutely loved it. Everybody I’ve spoken to who was in the room absolutely loved it. She’s a huge star, she was amazing. The songs she was singing are very familiar songs, the room was clapping and people were sort of dancing to the music. That rap section in the middle mentioning the women in the room, was because it’s been a great year for women in film, and we wanted to celebrate that. And here is a woman of color who is at the absolute top of her game. And she’s opening the BAFTAs with a song that said so much on so many levels. All those mentions, I felt, from the moment we were rehearsing it right through the transmission last night, spoke to what we wanted to do.”
So what exactly did DeBose do to merit a full force attack that went viral on Twitter?
In essence, she had one of those perfect storm moments. Not unlike the cringe-worthy “Howard Dean Scream” in the 2004 Democratic primary. Perhaps it was the combination of her body movements and vocal pronunciations – comically twisting her hips and flipping her hands in time to the music while uttering the vague phrase, “Angela Basset did the thing,” which seemed to many, somewhat dismissive for an accomplished actress like Bassett. Whatever the case, it produced something just quirky enough that social media mavens glommed onto it and sent it viral.
If the latest in 21st century technology didn’t exist and viewers hadn’t caught on quick enough to snag the clip and turn it into a meme or a gif and Twitter users hadn’t been quite so overboard, calling out DeBose on her own Twitter account, then she probably wouldn’t have shut it down.
Fast forward 24 hours and the North Carolina queer girl who made it big is now chuckling at herself, once again taking to social media (Instagram) and enjoying the attention she’s getting for her goofy words and movements on a page full of Ariana memes and gifs. “I’m loving every minute of this,” she posted.
And why shouldn’t she? DeBose has a slew of upcoming projects lined up to keep her busy, rake in some big bucks and keep making her home state proud.