“Hamilton” has not only been a success for Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s career. It was also the springboard for the new generation of Latinx both on Broadway and the big screen.
Such was the case for Ariana DeBose, a young actress, singer, and dancer in her early 30s whose work in musical theater has opened the doors of the entertainment world wide open for her.
Born in North Carolina and the daughter of a Puerto Rican father, DeBose rose to fame in 2009 when she placed in the top 20 of the So You Think You Can Dance contestants.
That opportunity secured her a role on the soap opera One Life to Live and the role of Inez in the North Carolina Theatre’s production of Hairspray before she booked the role of Nautica in the Alliance Theatre’s 2011 production of Bring It On.
With her career launched, DeBose played Mary Wilson in Motown on Broadway in 2013, understudying the role of Diana Ross. DeBose left the show shortly thereafter to play Eponine in a regional production of Les Miserables before returning to Broadway as a noblewoman and player in the musical Pippin, understudying the role of Leading Player, which she ended up taking over for a brief stint in 2014.
One of her most prominent roles was as The Bullet in the off-Broadway musical ensemble Hamilton in early 2015. The show transferred to Broadway later that year and became an overnight sensation. DeBose was nominated for an Astaire Award for her dancing in the show, in which, as an ensemble member, she portrayed the bullet with which Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton. DeBose Left Hamilton in July 2016 and made a guest appearance on the television series Blue Bloods as Sophia Ortiz. She also starred as Daphne in the thriller Seaside.
DeBose went on to play Disco Donna in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical in San Diego at La Jolla Playhouse in late 2017. She reprised this role on Broadway, which opened in April 2018. She received a 2018 Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.
Ariana DeBose has also transformed herself into one of the most important faces in Latinx representation in the LGBTQ+ community. As she said in an interview with Glamour magazine while promoting her film The Prom, DeBose spoke in detail about her background, from her Afro-Latina identity to her sexual orientation.
“I’m a Black woman, I identify as Afro-Latina, and I’m queer. It’s a constant journey of discovery of all the layers that make you who you are,” she said. “I believe in a sexual spectrum, and I also am a woman. I also reserve the right to change my mind whenever I want to. I make space for all of that.”
Now, DeBose plays Anita in Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of West Side Story, giving a classic its contemporary reinterpretation.