Ariana DeBose's rap about Angela Bassett and Viola Davis at the 2023 BAFTA Awards is meme gold.

Ariana DeBose Is A Cringe Legend

Her BAFTAs rap sparked instant memes, but fans may love her now more than ever.

Stuart Wilson/BAFTA/Getty Images for BAFTA

On Sunday, Feb. 19, a star was born. Ariana DeBose was already an Oscar-winning, Broadway-belting icon before she took to the stage at the 2023 BAFTA Awards to open the ceremony, but it wasn’t until that night that she truly became a legend. Because in the year 2023, there’s no greater fame than becoming the internet’s favorite meme.

DeBose kicked off the BAFTAs with an original musical performance dedicated to the night’s major nominees, but when the medley shifted into a “Vogue”-inspired rap about the women nominees, things got a little awkward. Not only was DeBose clearly struggling to catch her breath late into her performance, but also, the lyrics were pretty bizarre, ranging from the hollow “Angela Bassett did the thing,” to the inscrutable “Jamie Lee, you are all of us.” (BAFTAs producer Nick Bullen revealed to Variety that DeBose put the whole number together with her team within just a few weeks’ time.)

Years ago, the uncomfortable performance probably would have simply landed with a thud and then been forgotten about, but in the age of social media memery, cringe is gold. And DeBose unknowingly had the Midas touch.

The rap quickly went viral, exemplifying the paragon of quotable campiness that has become the gold standard for internet obsession, transforming the rap from bad to good right in front of our eyes.

Obviously, the standout line from the rap was “Angela Bassett did the thing,” a perfectly innocuous and concise string of words elevated by DeBose’s unique inflection and dance while delivering it. Immediately, all of social media latched onto it.

DeBose followed up her Bassett shoutout by rapping, “Viola Davis, my woman king.” Twitter had a bit of fun with that line, too, but mostly viewers enjoyed Davis visibly bopping along to the song in the audience.

Another celeb who seemed to enjoy the performance was Jamie Lee Curtis, even if DeBose’s shoutout of “Jamie Lee, you are all of us” confused everyone else.

On the complete other end of the enjoyment spectrum, Ana de Armas was stone-faced when DeBose sang, “Ana, girl, you were great in Blonde.” Naturally, the reaction shot was instantly meme-ified.

For delivering such a treasure trove of deliciously cringey moments, DeBose ascended from unfortunate flop to the meme queen of social media in no time. Sadly, DeBose deactivated her Twitter account before she could see the full extent of her new royal status, but hopefully the star will come to embrace the performance as much as the rest of the internet has. She did seem to appreciate some of the memes, though, commenting on an IG collage of jokes about the number, “Honestly I love this.”

And just like that, an award-winning singer and actor finally achieved true stardom: becoming a cringe queen.