It’s not about the Greek female canon misrepresented through the television screen. It is about empowered femininity, of color, queer, and taking the world by storm. That’s the feeling you’re left with after reading Oscar-winning Afro-Latina and queer actress Ariana DeBose’s latest interview with Deadline.
From London, where DeBose is filming her role as Calypso in the Marvel movie “Kraven the Hunter,” the actress told the magazine how her moral compass is defined by her upbringing, fidelity to herself, and determination to make viewers of color feel truly seen.
“I have felt like the chapters of my life shifted in such a way where it’s finding where your commitment lies,” DeBose said. “I commit per project, but there are seasons of one’s career. I seem to be in a season at the moment where the work that is calling to me most is in film or television, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not planting seeds for something that I might want to do in a different season on stage. I believe in planting seeds.”
Ariana DeBose has been recognized with Oscar, SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and even a Film Critics’ Choice Award for her role as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s 2021 film adaptation of “West Side Story.”
Her talent and charisma had already conquered the theater boards following her appearance in the musical “Hamilton” in the role of The Bullet and her portrayal of Jane in “A Bronx Tale.”
In 2018, DeBose was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her role as Donna Summer in the musical “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.”
But her success – which now reaps her roles everywhere – has meant much more than a shower of accolades. It is a life mission.
“Things just start rolling, and you can’t really stop them,” she told Deadline. “It becomes like a movement that is bigger than you in a way. That’s what I think I’m learning. There are so many things that I’ve experienced that are so much bigger than me, but I’m like a vessel or a catalyst. It’s the ability to not make it about you. I think those that I’ve witnessed that are most successful in their mission or their purpose; they have the ability to not make it about them.”
“Acting isn’t about me; dance isn’t about me; singing is not about me. It’s about the storytelling and the people. It’s about the community. It’s about what I’m hoping to bring voice to,” she added.
It is precisely that sense of community that has led Ariana DeBose to distinguish herself in a crowd by her fidelity to her identity.
The daughter of a European-American mother and an Afro-Puerto Rican father, Ariana DeBose grew up in a place where colors – even beyond the black and white spectrum – were simply not a prism through which to observe the world.
“I’m a mixed chick. And I was raised by my mom. My mom’s white, and my mom’s family’s white. And so, they’re like, ‘But how could… How did you… Were you not raised to see color?’ A lot of people don’t like that phrase, ‘Oh, I don’t see color. I wasn’t raised to see color.’ And it’s not really a black-and-white thing. You can’t narrow down that lived, experienced experience to a phrase.”
Much less when that experience involved strong, empowered women.
DeBose explained to Deadline that her character, one of her most recognized traits by those who have worked closely with her, is inherent to her upbringing in a community of really strong women.
“My mom is an incredibly strong woman who raised me as a single parent. And my grandmother was also heavily involved in my childhood, my mom’s sister, my aunt,” DeBose explained.
“My mother is a teacher as well. I was born in Wilmington, but we moved to New Bern, North Carolina, which is a very small town. And the teachers that were working with my mother were also very influential in my formative years because I was raised by a village of really strong, independent women with varied opinions.”
“I had the benefit of many examples of femininity. And I think I don’t know how to be anything but myself because I was always encouraged to be myself,” she added.