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Kristen Stewart and Ariana DeBose Could Make Gay Oscar Herstory

If either won, they'd become the first actor to be able to acknowledge their queerness from the Oscar stage.

Kristen Stewart, "Spencer"

“Spencer”

Neon

Superficial as it may seem to parse out the minutiae of queer representation, 2022 marks the first year two openly queer performers have been in the running for acting Oscars. While these days it seems every young celebrity has dabbled in queerness, the Academy Awards is still the largest and widest-reaching stage Hollywood has to offer. Viewers tune in from around the world to watch their favorite performers dress up, smile for the camera, and deliver heartfelt acceptance speeches. Never has any actor been able to openly acknowledge their queerness during an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.

If either Kristen Stewart or Ariana DeBose win in March, they would become the first to do so. Say what you will about the limits of representation — that’s a big deal.

Though more than a few LGBTQ actors (that we know of) have been nominated, only a few were out at the time of their nominations. And while it’s impossible to compare experiences across decades given how much discrimination LGBTQ people faced in earlier eras, none of the winners whom we now know to be LGBTQ were out at the time that they won — certainly not enough to say anything openly in their acceptance speeches. That includes Jodie Foster, Joel Grey, Linda Hunt, Kevin Spacey, Marlon Brando, and John Gielgud.

Critical darling Stewart received her first Oscar nomination for her work in “Spencer,” Pablo Larraín’s lush fever dream thriller about Princess Diana and the stifling environment that led to her downfall. Though Stewart has earned critics’ awards for previous roles in “Personal Shopper” and “Clouds of Sils Maria” (which won her the French Cesar), the artistry and intensity of “Spencer” finally led to her first Oscar nomination. Incidentally, the film explores queer themes in both subtle and fanciful ways.

Even with her A-list industry status, her nomination was not a given: She beat out former nominee Lady Gaga, three-time winner Frances McDormand, and breakthrough Alana Haim. In order to take the Oscar home, and maybe blow a kiss to her fiancée Dylan Meyer in the process, Stewart will have to beat out former winners Olivia Colman, Nicole Kidman, and Penélope Cruz, and three-time nominee Jessica Chastain.

"West Side Story"

“West Side Story”

Niko Tavernise

If Stewart’s odds are long, “West Side Story” breakthrough Ariana DeBose could have a stronger shot at winning Best Supporting Actress. Hollywood loves a Cinderella story, and the Broadway baby turned screen star is just the kind of fresh new talent that gets voters excited. It’s not only her amazing dance moves and powerful belt that make her so exciting to watch, but it’s the fierce well of emotion and humanity DeBose brought to the role of Anita.

If DeBose wins, she’ll also join the rarified ranks of the only eight Black women to ever win Best Supporting Actress, and four Latin American actresses to have done so — including Rita Moreno for the same role in 1961. DeBose has been out as queer since 2015, when she first started doing interviews while starring on Broadway. She played a queer role in “The Prom,” both on Broadway and in the Netflix movie version.

Winners will be announced at the 94th Oscars, which will take place on Sunday, March 27 live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, airing on ABC. While a host for the annual show has not yet been announced, AMPAS has promised that the event will indeed have one this year. Check out the full list of this morning’s nominations right here.

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