The Prom’s Ariana DeBose felt ‘ashamed’ when she danced with a girl at her own prom

Jo Ellen Pellman as Emma and Ariana Debose as Alyssa in The Prom

The Prom star Ariana DeBose has spoken about bringing a girl to her real-life prom and feeling “ashamed.”

The Broadway actor, who previously took on roles in Hamilton and Pippin, plays closeted lesbian Alyssa Green in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix adaptation of The Prom.

Her character in the musical is uneasy about the prospect of coming out to the world by going to prom with her girlfriend, even as a large-scale battle unfolds for their right to go together.

It’s a plotline that DeBose, who is queer, connects to in real life as well.

Speaking to Gay Times magazine, she explained: “Representation matters. I am not an actor who holds the belief that if you don’t identify as the character, you shouldn’t play it. I don’t necessarily think that is true, but I think in certain circumstances, like The Prom, the fact that Jo Ellen and I both identify as LGBTQ+ only enhances the depth and the chemistry between the characters.

“When you can have an authentic connection between two people on camera, it goes above and beyond helping the story land.

“I think you really fall in love with these girls because there’s an element of the two of us as individuals, understanding what it means to be queer and come out in today’s world. It’s really powerful and palpable and I believe people will feel that.”

Ariana Debose and the cast of The Prom

Ariana Debose and the cast of The Prom (Netflix/Melinda Sue Gordon)

Ariana DeBose speaks about her own prom experience.

She added: “My personal prom story, I went with my best friend, his name is Jonathan. He’s a straight white male. We were dancing and this girl that I had a crush on came and asked me to dance. Jonathan said: ‘Go ahead, go do it!’ He encouraged me because he knew I was questioning at the time, and so I did.

“While I was dancing with her, I noticed that people had started to stare, and not in a positive way. I got really self-conscious, and I remember being very flushed, so I backed away from her.

“I couldn’t say anything because I felt really ashamed, number one, that I was reacting that way. But, I couldn’t help myself.

“When I think about ‘I Wanna Dance With You’ and then the version in the inclusive prom setting, it’s like… If I had this film, that moment would’ve been very different. That’s also why I’m so grateful for my experience on this film because I got a redo.

“Instead of having people look at me in judgement when I was dancing with a girl, I got to experience what it felt like to have people cheer for you, and to normalise it.”

She continued: “There’s nothing wrong with dancing with a girl. And there’s nothing wrong with two men dancing or two trans-identifying humans dancing together. It should not matter.”