Ariana DeBose, better known as Anita on Spielberg’s West Side Story, is a star in the making. Anita is a character loved by many for her sassy attitude and bold decisions, and DeBose's portrayal of her is paving her path to the Academy Awards. Through exceptional singing, dancing and acting, Anita has many shining moments throughout the film and we’ve picked six of the best to relive DeBose’s outstanding work.
A character’s first appearance in a movie is so important because we will begin to make assumptions about them at our first glance. We first catch a glimpse of Anita in this scene and right off the bat DeBose portrays exactly who her character is — a protective, feisty and confident woman who looks after Maria like her little sister.
The dancing in West Side Story is part of what makes it so entertaining and Anita is one of the best. While all of the students dance together, Anita and Bernardo have several outstanding solo moments and Anita shows off her ability to spin, twirl and kick with an attitude like no other.
Not only can DeBose dance, but she can clearly sing too. In one of West Side Story’s most famous songs, Anita dances her way through New York City and sings about her love for living in America. Although Bernardo tries to convince her of how great Puerto Rico is, DeBose portrays Anita as the headstrong woman she is who goes after what she wants in life.
In this emotional and powerful scene, Anita struggles to hold tears back by herself after finding out Tony killed Bernardo. When she enters Maria’s room, she catches Tony red-handed sneaking out through the window. The audience can truly feel the pure betrayal and fury on Anita’s face when she opens the door and sees Tony.
Anita breaks into a song unsure of what else to do with her rage. With a huge divide between them, she condemns Maria to stick to Puerto Rican men and that men like Tony will only hurt her in the end. Anita’s anger soon turns to tears and she tells Maria she has to leave with Tony if she wants to stay with him. This strong decision Anita makes shows how she absolutely will not let anyone cross her, especially when they hurt the people she loves. DeBose's sudden change of heart when she starts to think about her love, Bernardo, is heart-wrenching to watch.
This is only one real moment in the movie where Anita’s confidence is threatened, during which the Jets mock her and a brawl erupts. Troubled by the way she is treated and desperate to protect Maria, Anita lies to Valentina, telling her Maria is dead. This may not be one of Anita’s proudest moments, but everything she does is in hopes to protect her own kind. The look on DeBose's face when she realizes she can get revenge is a ruthless one we didn't see the entire film— until the Jets cross her.
Photography by: Photos by Niko Tavernise. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved