Ariana DeBose: 5 Things To Know About The ‘West Side Story’ Star Hosting SNL

Ariana DeBose is set to host 'Saturday Night Life' on Jan. 15, following her breakout role in 'West Side Story'. Here are 5 key things to know about her.

Ariana DeBose
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Image Credit: Niko Tavernise/20th Century FOX

Ariana DeBose rocketed to superstardom after the release of West Side Story last Dec. After stealing the show in the 2021 musical film adaptation, the 30-year-old triple threat is now set to show off her funny side with a hostitng gig on Saturday Night Live.

Ariana already proved her singing, dancing and acting chops with West Side Story, and prior to that she dazzled in Netflix’s The Prom. From her Broadway history to her personal life, here’s what you should know about Ariana.

Ariana DeBose
Ariana DeBose as Anita in ‘West Side Story.’ (Niko Tavernise/20th Century FOX)

1. Ariana stars as Anita in ‘West Side Story.’

Ariana plays the pivotal role of Anita, a Puerto Rican immigrant who is dating Bernando, in West Side Story. Anita sings the famous songs of “A Boy Like That” “America” in the film. The role of Anita was played by Rita Moreno in the original 1961 film version. Rita plays the role of Valentina in the 2021 version.

Steven Spielberg revealed in a behind-the-scenes video that Ariana was one of the hundreds of actresses who auditioned for the role of Anita. “Her personal charisma, it was alive and vivid in the room,” Steven said. And I kept thinking, once I get her on video during these rehearsals, I bet she doubles down on that. And it’s exactly what happened.”

2. Ariana is a Broadway star. 

Ariana made her Broadway debut in 2011 in Bring It On: The Musical. She appeared in the original cast of Hamilton from 2015 to 2016 starred as Jane in A Bronx Tale in 2016. After starring as Donna Summer in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Ariana received her first Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

3. Ariana identifies as queer. 

Ariana revealed to Glamour that she came out as queer to her mother when she was in dance school. “Acknowledging my sexuality for me has gone hand in hand in my journey with identity. I’m a Black woman, I identify as Afro-Latina and I’m queer,” Ariana said. “It’s a constant journey of discovery of all of the layers that make you who you are. I believe in a sexual spectrum and I also am a woman. I also reserve the right to change my mind whenever I want so, I make space for all of that. I don’t think that you’re ever – or at least for me – really through with the journey of coming out.”

She added that her “journey with sexuality is ongoing, which is why queer is my word. But I accept all the other words that are in our alphabet and I respect how anybody wants to define themselves. There’s not one way to be gay. There’s not one way to be straight. There’s not one way to be Black. There’s not one way to be Latina. There’s just not one way of being human.”

Ariana DeBose
Ariana DeBose at the ‘West Side Story’ premiere. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

4. Ariana is from North Carolina.

Ariana was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. However, she spent most of her teen years in the Raleigh and Wake Forest area. She attended Western Carolina University for a period of time, but she dropped out. “I lasted for two and a half months I think, and it wasn’t for me,” Ariana told Medium. “I stayed long enough to do a show for them, because the director asked me to stay. So I stayed to do A Chorus Line, playing Cassie. Opening night, we had a glorious opening and we got to the closing number, and this kid hit my shoe and I broke my ankle. So I was like, ‘Okay, my foot’s broken. I’m leaving. Bye!'”

5. Ariana auditioned for ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

There’s no denying that Ariana has some serious dancing skills when you watch West Side Story. Ariana actually made her TV debut in 2009 when she was a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance. She made it into the top 20.

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