A song gone wrong? Ariana DeBose instantly received the meme treatment after her viral performance at the 2023 BAFTAs — but the jokes seemingly didn’t sit well.
The West Side Story actress, 32, opened the awards show on Sunday, February 19, with a dedication to the women nominated for their work. DeBose was joined by a group of dancers at the Royal Festival Hall in London as she sang “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” and “We Are Family.” An original rap was also included in the high-energy performance.
“Angela Bassett did the thing. Viola Davis, my ‘Woman King,'” DeBose said as she danced in the crowd. “Blanchett Cate, you’re a genius. Jamie Lee [Curtis], you are all of us.”
The camera panned to focus on different audience members, some of whom could be seen smiling and dancing along with DeBose. After the event, the clip quickly made the rounds on social media, with jokes pouring in about the Broadway vet’s lyrics.
“If Angela Bassett wins the Oscar she should find time to thank Ariana DeBose because the fact that this has been stuck in my head all day long is ingenious campaigning,” one fan tweeted, while another teased that they would be quoting DeBose’s tune “until my deathbed.”
As social media users continued to playfully roast the rap, eagle-eyed fans noticed that DeBose deactivated her Twitter account. However, she commented on a roundup of memes shared by Evan Ross Katz via Instagram on Monday, February 20.
“Babe, wake up, Angela Bassett did the thing,” read the slideshow’s caption. The Tony nominee chimed in, “Honestly I love this.”
Following the awards show, BAFTAs producer Nick Bullen shed light on the decision to have DeBose perform. “We wanted to open the show with some energy, some fun, and also lay out straight away that this was hopefully going to feel like a different night, but with a familiarity as well, and what Ariana did was exactly that,” he explained to Variety, noting that the BBC and BAFTAs organization wanted the show to have “a broader reach in terms of age range and diversity.”
According to Bullen, the performance was a hit inside the venue. “I think [the criticism is] incredibly unfair, to be frank,” he said. “I absolutely loved it. Everybody I’ve spoken to who was in the room absolutely loved it. She’s a huge star, she was amazing.”
He went on to defend the Oscar winner, who “only had a few weeks” to put together her routine. “That rap section in the middle, mentioning the women in the room, was because it’s been a great year for women in film, and we wanted to celebrate that,” Bullen added. “And here is a woman of color who is at the absolute top of her game. And she’s opening the BAFTAs with a song that said so much on so many levels.”
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