The New Faces of Pride: Ariana DeBose Shares Why She's Poured Her Whole Heart Into Her New Initiative

Fresh off her spin in The Prom, triple-threat Ariana DeBose launched the Unruly Hearts Initiative with costar Jo Ellen Pellman. She told E! News about their work and what Pride means in 2021.

By Billy Nilles, Sarah Grossbart Jun 30, 2021 1:00 PMTags

With the world slowly beginning to come out on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, this Pride season is one of tremendous celebration. And yet, the spirit of a movement itself born out of a protest lives on. As the month of June comes to a close and International Pride Day nears, E! News has asked some of Hollywood's newest generation of LGBTQ+ stars to share what Pride means to them in 2021.

Welcome to The New Faces of Pride.

Ariana DeBose would like you to wear her heart on your sleeve. More than six months into helming the Unruly Hearts Initiative—founded with The Prom costar Jo Ellen Pellman—they've teamed with Coloring Broadway to release what she called "this super cute" $15 enamel pin with all profits going to the Trevor Project. 

That's on top of the $150,000 they've already raised for the nonprofit focused on suicide prevention efforts and their other partners: Point Foundation, a scholarship fund for LGBTQ+ youth and Covenant House, which helps young kids overcome homelessness. 

Stars Celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month 2021

And it's only part of what they had their heart set on when they launched their initiative this past December just as their musical adaption was dropping on Netflix.

She and Pellman, who play the hit film's high school couple just fighting to go to their prom like every other teen, "were very aware of the potential impact The Prom could have on young people around the world," DeBose explained to E! News. "So we thought the best way we could help them, or even parents, would be to create a place where they could go seek resources on their journey with identity."

At the Unruly Hearts site, continued the Hamilton vet, users can connect with a "whole rainbow of organizations that are already doing the work to help queer youth in the areas of housing insecurity solutions, mental health access and education access."

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello via Getty Images/E! Illustration

For E!'s New Faces of Pride celebration, the actress, next up in the highly anticipated West Side Story adaption, explains why she's put her whole heart into creating change for the LGBTQ+ community and why she's so grateful that Robin Roberts exists. 

How has your personal definition of Pride changed or shifted after all we've been through these last few months?

The concept of Pride is more important than ever. We have waited and waited to have our worth, our voices, talent, essence acknowledged by the powers that be—and I believe in light of all that we have experienced during the pandemic, people are tired of waiting. Owning our Pride is the way to fight back from a position of power. Owning our being without waiting to be told "it's OK." The time is now to celebrate our humanity and our worth. Owning our authentic selves with confidence is one of the best ways to combat negativity that is aimed at our marginalized communities. 

What queer media, be it books, music or film/TV, is a mainstay in your life? Why?

Fried Green Tomatoes, the original L Word series and one of my favorite books, The Color Purple. They all taught me about the complexities, nuance and beauty of relationships between women. I also love that the human examples in these pieces learn to claim themselves and take up space unapologetically.

You finally get to meet your queer hero. Who are they? And after "Thank you" and "I love you," what the next thing you tell them?

Robin Roberts! I would tell her how much I appreciate that her sexuality is not a headline, that I admire the grace and power with which she approaches her job. She is an OUT Black female anchor on one of the most watched morning news shows in the country. I feel she uses her visibility to advocate and shine light on communities in need. Seeing her succeed has inspired me in so much over the years and I'm grateful she exists. 

LGBTQ Musicians You Need to Have in Heavy Rotation

What is your message to future generations of queer people, coming of age right now? How do you want to instill hope in them?

The generation coming up behind me is already so much smarter and wiser than I was at their age in regards to their understanding and acceptance of gender expression and sexuality. They instill hope in me!!! I would encourage future generations to continue to lead with love. Their voices are powerful. Stay involved in your communities because change starts on a local level…and at the ballot box.