Ariana plays Anita in Steven Spielberg’s revival of a much-loved classic 🍿
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE BY WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
Portraying Anita in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story, Ariana DeBose is a shining star in the musical theatre world. Nominated for a Tony Award in 2018 for her performance as Disco Donna in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Ariana has been a bold advocate for the LGBTQI community since she came out in 2015. Starring as closeted lesbian Alyssa in Ryan Murphy’s The Prom (2020), Ariana co-founded The Unruly Hearts Initiative with co-star Jo Ellen Pellman to raise money for organisations supporting LGBTQI youth. Amazing, right? West Side Story is in cinemas from 10 December, DIVAs. Don’t miss it!
What inspired you to pursue the world of musical theatre?
I sort of fell into it, if I’m honest. I was 14 when I discovered that dancing has started to become quite easy for me, and it was my mother who suggested that I try out for the school play. Then, I fell absolutely bonkers in love with musical theatre, and the rest is history.
Your latest role is Anita in West Side Story. Could you tell me a little bit about it?
I watched the film from 1961 with Rita Moreno as a kid, and I absolutely loved the woman in the purple dress. I never thought that I would be doing any production of West Side Story. Cut to 2018, and I got a phone call asking me to come in. I was a little surprised, but it was a beautiful collaboration.
You were also nominated for a Tony for your performance as Donna in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Donna is a huge icon for the LGBTQI community – what was it like for you to embody her in this role?
It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It was the privilege of my career to bring the essence of Donna Summer to life. She was a real-life icon – the art that she created healed so many people and brought so much joy. Those are the parts of her that I focussed on.
Did it help you to connect with any LGBTQI fans?
Loads! My LGBTQI fans are always near and dear to my heart. I loved walking out of the stage door and meeting everyone.
Do you have any advice for any young LGBTQI people?
Don’t give up on yourself. The belief I had in myself gave me an undying belief in the universe.
West Side Story is in cinemas from 10 December. Loved this interview? Keep your eyes peeled at divadirect.info over the coming weeks for even more from Ariana. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram too!
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