Ariana DeBose’s Mother, a Raleigh Schoolteacher, Goes to the Oscars
Gina DeBose has faithfully watched the Oscars on TV since she was a child. As an adult, she watched with her daughter by her side.
This Sunday, she’ll be seated in the audience at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood — again with her daughter by her side — and possibly watch Ariana DeBose walk up the steps to the stage to accept her own Oscar.
Ariana DeBose, born in Wilmington and raised in Raleigh and Wake Forest, is the favorite to win the Best Supporting Actress award this weekend, for her role as Anita in the remake of “West Side Story” by Steven Spielberg.
And as was the case when Ariana was nominated for a Tony Award for playing Disco Donna in “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” mom will be her plus-one.
“Ariana and I have always watched the Oscars, it’s always something we’ve done,” Gina DeBose told The News & Observer on Friday, the day before she left for Los Angeles for a weekend of glamorous festivities.
“We always watched all the award shows. I’ve been watching since I was a kid. It was a big deal! I remember when Bob Hope was the announcer, but now I’ve dated myself,” she said.
While Gina DeBose may not have sat on the couch with young Ariana and imagined them both at the Oscars one day in recent years, it’s a bet she probably would have taken.
“I guess more recently, over the last decade, I’ve seen where it could possibly be, but I didn’t expect it so soon,” she said. “It’s very elusive and exclusive stuff, and the field that she’s in – it’s really hard to get that kind of accolade. So for her to be 31 and at this point in her career, that’s pretty awesome. Pretty amazing.”
If Ariana wins the Oscar on Sunday — she’s considered a favorite among tipsters and online bettors — it won’t be her first major accolade for “West Side Story.”
She’s already won the BAFTA (think of it as a British Oscar), Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice awards this season.
And an Oscar win will put Ariana, who was The News & Observer’s Tar Heel of the Month in March 2021, in the history books as the first openly gay woman and first Afro-Latina to win an acting Oscar.
Anxiety over the Oscars dress (and shoes)
But before any eventual celebration comes the preparation for a very busy weekend, and that means shopping for a dress (or two) and some shoes. Gina will need two outfits because she will be attending a pre-Oscars gala with Ariana on Saturday.
“It’s the most anxiety-inducing thing ever,” Gina DeBose said of Oscar outfit shopping.
“Anyone who knows me knows that it’s not something I enjoy. I feel like I’ve ordered 500,000 dresses, but I finally found two that I like. And having to find some shoes was not fun, but I finally found some shoes last weekend and got everything ready,” she said.
“Ariana’s glam team is working on my props, so it’s out of my hands. I don’t have to worry about that anymore.” Gina said the team could give her a hand on hair and makeup, but that she would focus on Ariana, “making her beautiful.”
And now, with the stress of finding the right outfits behind her, Gina, a teacher at Wakefield Middle School in Raleigh, can finally focus on being as excited as her students and fellow teachers have been since the nominations were announced. in February.
“I’ve gotten more excited over the past two days because it hits me that I’m leaving tomorrow morning,” she said.
DeBose worked Friday (“A teacher’s job is never done,” she said), speaking to The N&O during a morning planning period at school. She will be picked up at 6 a.m. Saturday for her flight to LA. She’ll attend the gala on Saturday, then the Oscars show (including the red carpet) on Sunday, followed by after-parties and a late dinner, all while adapting from the east coast to the west coast.
“It’s going to be a weekend,” Gina said. “Whatever Ariana does, I will do. I hope I can stay awake that long.
“The adrenaline is going to kick in and I have a feeling it’ll be the same as the night ‘Hamilton’ was at the Tonys. The adrenaline just kicked in and the next thing you know it’s 6 a.m. morning. I think I’m going to have a great time. I can’t wait to see what it looks like.
Ariana was part of the original cast of “Hamilton” on Broadway.
Gina plans to take a few days off next week as she returns to North Carolina from California.
There’s a slight reintroduction of stress when Gina is reminded that because she’ll be sitting next to her daughter at the Oscars, she’ll probably be on TV. Probably a lot.
“Oh my God, I try to keep that out of my mind,” Gina said. “I will try to be very stoic in front of the camera.”
“A real blessing”
Gina and her daughter have always been close.
She raised Ariana as a single mother and nurtured her talents from the start, moving to the Raleigh area when Ariana was entering sixth grade to give her more options in the dance and arts scene here.
“My childhood was truly wonderful,” Ariana told interviewer Marc Maron in a podcast interview recorded in early March and posted last week. “My mom is incredibly strong-willed…she’s one of the greatest educators I’ve ever seen in action.”
Ariana’s father, she told Maron, was never a part of her life.
Gina attended Broadway opening parties and movie premieres with Ariana. She even visited him on the set of “West Side Story” in the summer of 2019.
Ariana told The News & Observer in December 2021 that her mother was there filming the “Dance at the Gym” scene, and spent time chatting with director Spielberg (who took over the pronunciation AIR -ee-ana from her mother’s name, instead of the ARR-ee-ana pronunciation she prefers).
And through it all, Gina said she was still impressed with her daughter’s talent and determination.
“She always had a little star quality to her, but who knew where that would go,” Gina said. “I’m proud of her though. She has worked very hard to get where she is. This perseverance, this dynamism and this dedication in its field, it is rather brilliant, rather brilliant.
Gina says her time talking to Ariana has been limited lately (“she’s in London to start working on the next gig”), but she said her daughter is excited about everything that’s going on right now. .
“The times I spoke to her, she was excited and nervous,” Gina said. “She takes it all in and enjoys it, which is what I want her to do. It’s a real blessing – just enjoy the ride.
While they are both enjoying the ride, friends back home will watch and celebrate no matter the outcome. Ariana’s grandmother will be watching at home in Wilmington, and Theater Raleigh and CC & Co. Dance Complex, two groups that have been instrumental in Ariana’s development, are throwing parties.
“It’s been such a whirlwind,” Gina said. “I think I’m just wrapping my brain around it. I don’t know if it will hit me 100% until that night, but what a ride.