Ariana DeBose Was Our ‘Woman King’ At The BAFTAs


"955897102" by Family Equality is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

2022 British Academy of Film and Television Award (BAFTA) winner Ariana DeBose receives an invitation to perform the opening act for the 2023 BAFTAs. Her tribute rap for the female nominees gained traction on social media sites like Twitter and TikTok.

Maggie Craig, Editor-In-Chief

Will Smith punching Chris Rock at the Oscars? Boring. Harry Styles making a distasteful speech at the Grammys? Meh. “West Side Story” star Ariana DeBose creating a clumsy rap at the BAFTAs?

Sign me up.  

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the 76th British Academy Film and Television Awards (BAFTAs) took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London to honor the best British and international films of 2022. However, by the end, no one was talking about the winners and losers of the night. Instead, the Internet buzzed about the opening performance.

Oscar winner and Broadway actress Ariana DeBose performed a rap that paid homage to the female nominees and to her roots as a performer in the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton. But the iconic rap faced initial backlash due to the “cringeworthy” lyrics and her out-of-breath singing.

DeBose received so much hate for the rap that she had to deactivate her Twitter account. 

During the performance, the camera panned to the women DeBose mentioned in her rap. Many viewers poked fun at the “awkward” expressions of the female nominees. “Aftersun” Director Charlotte Wells plastered a half-smile during her shoutout while “Blonde” actress Ana de Armas showed a blank expression.

Many of the nominees appeared “confused” or “embarrassed” by their shout outs in the rap, which threw the Internet into a spiral. 

Furthermore, DeBose’s specific line: “Angela Bassett did the thing” became the only thing that the audience remembered from the 76th BAFTAs. The cadence and delivery of the lyric and the pronunciation of the “Black Panther” star’s name bemused and mesmerized the Internet. 

The viewers also obsessed over the meaning behind the lyrics. What did Angela Bassett do exactly? “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” star Jamie Lee Curtis’s shoutout also perplexed many viewers as DeBose raps, “Jamie Lee, you are all of us.”

Others also pondered over why DeBose said “Blanchett, Cate” instead of simply saying “Cate Blanchett” when announcing the “Tar” nominee’s name.

All these strangely phrased or worded lyrics added to the overall fame of the BAFTAs rap.

@brauhala Backstage with #ArianaDebose, getting ready to do the thing at the BAFTAs. 🥳 #bafta #baftas #angelabassett ♬ original sound – Benjamin Rauhala

Ultimately the Internet did what the Internet does best: they quickly turned their baseless hatred to love and respect for the art. On TikTok, the content surrounding DeBose’s rap shifted from mocking the performance to the Internet adoring Debose and calling her rap, “camp”. In no time, DeBose became a rap icon to Gen Z. 

What’s more, Music Director Benjamin Rauhala revealed a behind the scenes TikTok of DeBose preparing for her opening performance. In the TikTok, Debose practices the rap while getting her makeup done. But the TikTok revealed a shocking discovery that took over the Internet: DeBose practiced the iconic delivery of “Angela Bassett did the thing.” It wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision or because she was out of breath. DeBose rehearsed the lyric the way it was sung on live television. As a result, she received more respect and adoration from the Internet due to the newly discovered confidence of the line.

What was initially labeled as a “cringe” performance quickly transformed into an iconic moment in award show history.

Later, on Feb. 26th, at the 2023 Screen Actors Guilds Awards, DeBose poked fun at her BAFTAs rap, telling her fellow presenter, Diego Luna, to “do the thing”. 

DeBose’s rap is a lesson to all award shows that they don’t need a large scandal for the Internet to rave about. All they need is an iconic, campy performance that will steal everyone’s hearts.