Oscars 2022: Ariana DeBose Tells Rita Moreno She ‘Paved the Way’ in Touching Acceptance Speech

The 94th Annual Academy Awards saw Ariana DeBose winning her first Oscar for her role as Anita in West Side Story. DeBose was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and she made history with her win. She also thanked Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the original West Side Story, during her acceptance speech.

Ariana DeBose won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress

'West Side Story' star Ariana DeBose wins Best Supporting Actress at the 2022 Oscars. She's wearing a red dress and holding the trophy.
Ariana DeBose | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The 94th Annual Academy Awards kicked off with Ariana DeBose taking home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It was an exciting start to the ceremony, delivering a win that many movie buffs were hoping for.

And DeBose accepted her prize with a touching speech that started by honoring the actor who played Anita in the original West Side Story. Rita Moreno was the first Latina star to take home an Oscar, and she accomplished that with her own West Side Story performance.

DeBose’s speech brought things full circle, making history once again and emphasizing how Moreno made that possible.

The ‘West Side Story’ star thanked Rita Moreno in her speech

When Ariana DeBose stepped up to the podium to accept her Oscar, she made sure to thank Rita Moreno. DeBose called the previous Anita a “divine inspiration,” expressing gratitude for her contributions to the industry and how they’ve carved a path for other Latina actors like her.

“I’m so grateful your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you so much,” DeBose said.

DeBose went on to share why her own West Side Story win is such an accomplishment for LGBTQ actors and women of color. Decades after Moreno made history, DeBose did so as well.

Ariana DeBose made history with her win

Rita Moreno might have “paved the way” for Ariana DeBose to take home an Oscar for playing Anita, but she’s not alone in making history.

According to NBC, DeBose became the first Afro-Latina woman to take home an Oscar in an acting category. She’s also the first out LGBTQ woman of color to do so. The West Side Story actor mentioned those achievements in her speech. After thanking Moreno, as well as her family and many others, DeBose concluded:

“Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus. Look into her eyes. You see a queer — 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 has ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever, or [if] you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: there is indeed a place for us.”

That’s certainly an uplifting way to begin the 2022 Oscars ceremony! Congratulations to Ariana DeBose on the groundbreaking Oscars win.

RELATED: Steven Spielberg Makes History With His ‘West Side Story’ Best Director Nomination