As one of the stars of Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Ariana DeBose knows that she nabbed a once-in-a-lifetime role. As Anita, the best friend of protagonist Maria (Rachel Zegler), DeBose felt the pressure to do the role justice. “West Side Story is already such an iconic cultural phenomenon, so to be a part of it was a huge privilege and honor that I was not looking for or expecting,” DeBose tells Vogue. “I knew how important it was, me playing Anita, and that’s what made it so special—the chance to bring a new perspective to the role, and be an example for so many Afro-Latina girls [to show] that this is possible for them.”
While she has many fond memories from being on set, including working with co-stars like Rita Moreno and Maddie Ziegler, DeBose says feeling that classic New York energy on location was a highlight. “There was this one day after filming on set, we had just finished the ‘America’ scene, and the Jets were hanging nearby and the energy was so electric,” says DeBose. “In that very moment, we started clapping and cheering, because we realized the gravity of what we were doing and how huge it was for the Latin community. The scale of it all hit us that day.”
For the film’s premiere in Los Angeles last night, DeBose wanted to mark the special event with a strong red carpet look. Working with stylist Zadrian Smith, she opted for a fiery red Giorgio Armani suit. “I wanted to be a walking flame,” says DeBose, adding that she also wanted the look “to be timeless, classic, and comfortable with a slight twist.” Her favorite details of the look included the beaded, strappy top she wore underneath the sharp blazer. “I feel like a real lady boss in the suit, and the illusion of red dripping crystals on the bodice make the look everything I could’ve anticipated for such a major red carpet moment,” she says, adding that she also accessorized with Casadei heels.
Smith says their choice to rock a red-hot hue also had a deeper meaning, and was a subtle nod to Anita. “In the film, one of Anita’s key looks is a beautiful yellow dress with a red lining,” the stylist says. “As a color, red represents so many things—power, sensuality, vulnerability, and strength. Giorgio Armani is also renowned for the hue of red he has used in collections throughout his career.”
After West Side Story’s press tour ends (expect even more polished look from DeBose in the meantime), the star says she’ll be hopping right into her next projects. “I recently wrapped on two projects. One is I.S.S., directed by a female director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite,” says DeBose. “The second, Argylle, is a franchise with Matthew Vaughn at the helm. I don’t sing or dance in either of these films, so I’m excited to really showcase my talents beyond what perhaps is normally expected from me.”
Below, a closer look at how DeBose got ready for her West Side Story premiere.