Ariana DeBose made history at this year’s Academy Awards as the first openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar. DeBose won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in West Side Story. Now, DeBose is using her moment to do more to work for the LGBTQ+ community, More particularly, she’s using her proximity to the Walt Disney Company to work with the studio following its controversial reaction to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”
The bill, signed by Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis this month, states, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The Walt Disney Company faced backlash for its quiet response to the bill and also having reportedly given money to the bill’s sponsors, according to Variety. Following the controversy, the company issued a statement pledging to help repeal the legislation.
“Bob and I, we’re gonna do the work,” DeBose told Variety when asked about the controversial legislation before mentioning her talks with Bob Chapek, CEO of Disney. “I have [spoken to Chapek]. I’m a very hands-on type of person. And when I see something, I say something. And while I may not always put it on the internet, I do that. I reached out. And I will continue to reach out, and Bob knows that.”
DeBose has spoken out about her identity and shared excitement in seeing queer representation happening at the awards show. At the Academy Awards, she used her time on the stage to give her community some love and appreciation when accepting the award.
“Imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford Focus,” DeBose said during her acceptance speech. “Look into her eyes. You see an openly queer woman of color – an Afro-Latina – who found her strength in life through art. That’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate. So, to anybody who’s ever questioned your identity… or if you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: there is indeed a place for us.”