Ariana DeBose Speaks Out About Viral BAFTAs Rap in First Interview Since Awards Show

West Side Story actress Ariana DeBose is doing the explaining thing after the BAFTA Film Awards rap thing. Find out what she said about her performance, which drew criticism.

By Corinne Heller Feb 25, 2023 7:43 PMTags
Watch: Ariana DeBose Speaks Out About Viral BAFTAs Rap

After Ariana DeBose raised eyebrows over the BAFTA Film Awards thing, she did the explaining thing.

In what marked her first interview on her now-viral rap about the nominated actresses, the Oscar winner said she wanted to celebrate women with her performance at the Feb. 19 ceremony.

"That's what I wanted to do," DeBose explained on BBC Radio 2's The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show, as seen in an excerpt released on TikTok Feb. 25. "It's not like I was like, 'Hey BAFTA, let me in!' They actually called me, believe it or not. That was the assignment, like, 'Come celebrate women.' I was like, 'Absolutely!' And we did that, and it was fun."

DeBose's performance at the BAFTAs included covers of Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin's "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family." But it was her personalized rap, especially the lyric, "Angela Bassett did the thing," that sparked criticism and memes.

2013 BAFTAs: Arrivals

While DeBose praised one of them on Instagram, commenting, "Honestly I love this," she still deleted her Twitter amid the backlash.

But on her BBC Radio 2 interview, she focused on the positive. "Not gonna lie. I had a blast," she said about her experience at the BAFTAs. "So awesome. And then I spent the rest of the night...cutting a rug with Emma Thompson. Like, it was fabulous. I had a great time. Baz Luhrmann came and found me and he was like, 'No, I think you're great, that was fun. I had fun.' And I was like, 'Work!'"

Kate Green/BAFTA/Getty Images for BAFTA

Amid the criticism, the West Side Story actress also received a good amount of support on social media over her rap. "Apparently gay Twitter seemed to like it?" she said in her BBC Radio 2 interview. "So that's good, I'll take it."

And on Feb. 23, Lizzo rapped the Bassett line during her concert in Amsterdam, as seen in a fan's TikTok video.

BAFTAs producer Nick Bullen told Variety the morning after the ceremony that the criticism over DeBose's performance is "incredibly unfair," adding that the actress "worked with a great musical director and choreographer" to put the piece together.

"I absolutely loved it," he said. "Everybody I've spoken to who was in the room absolutely loved it. She's a huge star, she was amazing. The songs she was singing are very familiar songs, the room was clapping, and people were sort of dancing to the music. 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."

He 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. All of those mentions, I felt, from the moment we were rehearsing it right through to the transmission last night, spoke to what we wanted to do."

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