Ariana DeBose Says She Doesn't Like Labels Regarding Sexuality: 'I Prefer the Term Human'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Ariana DeBose celebrated being a queer woman of color during her Oscars speech earlier this year, but when it all comes down to it, there's one description that matters to her most: human.

In the latest episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast, the actress, 31, explains that rather than particular labels, "I prefer the term human because your humanity can be described in a myriad of ways, but it does not change the fact that you are human."

DeBose made history as the first Afro-Latina actress and the first openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar in an acting category when she clinched the Best Supporting Actress statuette at the 94th Academy Awards for her work in West Side Story.

Ariana DeBose
Ariana DeBose

P. Lehman/Future Publishing via Getty

"The fullness of who you are, what it's like to be queer, out, Latina, Afro-Latina, biracial, or multiracial, however you want to identify... we are moving towards a space where I think it is now more widely accepted to hear all of those labels wrapped up into one person," she adds.

During her Oscars speech, DeBose spoke to her identity and how her art helped her come into her own. "Imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford Focus," she said during the March 28 ceremony. "Look into her eyes, you see a queer — openly queer — woman of color, Afro-Latina who found her strength in life through art, and that's what I believe we are here to celebrate."

RELATED: Ariana DeBose to Host 2022 Tony Awards: 'I'm Coming Home!'

The former Broadway star also thanked costar Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar exactly 60 years ago for the same role in the original film, and said she's "grateful" Moreno's Anita has "paved the way for tons of Anitas like me."

Now DeBose acknowledges the importance of seeing aspects of herself throughout Hollywood when she was young. "When I was growing up in those formative years, I saw versions of myself... or parts of my identity reflected back to me," she says, citing women including Vanessa Williams and Zoe Saldana.

Ariana Debose
Ariana Debose

Jamie McCarthy/Getty

And while she feels it's "narcissistic" to say that she herself is now the representation she needed, she is happy that the industry is "taking strides" to increase representation across the board. DeBose will serve as emcee of the 75th annual Tony Awards on June 12 and she commends Broadway's biggest night for the diversity of honorees this year.

"I think this Tony season is actually a really good reflection of how we're moving forward," she notes. "The nominees are reflective of a delegation that really listened and heard the call, in my opinion."

RELATED: Hugh Jackman, Ruth Negga and MJ The Musical All Score 2022 Tony Nominations

She points out that "there's much more opportunity for records to be broken" with nominees like L Morgan Lee, the first openly trans woman to be nominated, and the two productions with the most nominations, A Strange Loop and MJ, coming from Black playwrights.

"It is a much more diverse group of nominees... there's much to be celebrated," DeBose says. "I think it's a sign of forward motion, but that doesn't mean that there's not more work to do."

Check out more episodes of PEOPLE Every Day, airing on Apple podcastsiHeartMedia, SpotifyStitcherAmazon Music or wherever you listen to your podcasts.