BAFTA producer defends Ariana DeBose following her cringey ‘rap’ performance

I didn’t make the Ariana DeBose-BAFTA situation into a stand-alone post yesterday because I actually felt sorry for her and embarrassed on her behalf. Ariana came into the BAFTAs as the reigning Best Supporting Actress BAFTA and Oscar winner. Instead of merely assigning Ariana a prominent presenting position, BAFTA producers worked with Ariana’s team to give her space to “perform” a half-singing, half-rapping mess in the opening of the awards show. Here’s the clip which was put online:

Absolute cringe. Now, was this *offensive* or harmful? No. It was just cringey and embarrassing. BAFTA producers should have known better and made better choices, and Ariana should have had the good sense to shut it down too. Well, this silly/dumb thing has become one of the major stories from the BAFTAs. People were clowning on “Angela Bassett did the thing” all of Sunday evening and into Monday. It got so bad that Ariana deleted her Twitter account and now BAFTA producers are trying to get everyone to chill out.

BAFTAs awards producer Nick Bullen believes Twitter criticism of Ariana DeBose’s opening number at Sunday’s awards show was “incredibly unfair.”

Speaking to Variety the morning after the telecast, the producer — who was backstage during the London awards ceremony honoring the best movies of the year — shared that the “West Side Story” star “put the whole piece together” with her team, working closely with a musical director and choreographer, and didn’t deserve the vitriol.

DeBose and her back-up dancers burst onto the stage following host Richard E. Grant’s opening monologue. Belting out “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” and “We Are Family,” the singer transitioned into an original rap saluting the awards’ female nominees.

“Angela Bassett did the thing, Viola Davis my ‘Woman King,’ Blanchett Cate you’re a genius, Jamie Lee you are all of us,” sang DeBose, who danced her way around the front row and was a little out of breath at some points. While the lyrics felt clumsy to those watching at home, and a clip of the lyrics played nonstop on Twitter last night, the mood inside the room was more celebratory. Speaking to co-host Alison Hammond backstage later in the show, the Oscar-winning singer was clearly pleased, telling the host she “made the British people clap.”

However, the song immediately received backlash online from viewers who branded it as “painful” to watch. Bullen, CEO of British production company Spun Gold, says the trolling “is incredibly unfair, to be frank.”

“We wanted to open the show with some energy, some fun, and also lay out straight away that this was hopefully going to feel like a different night, but with a familiarity as well, and what Ariana did was exactly that,” says Bullen. “I think a lot of people don’t like change, and there’s a view that the BAFTAs have to be this slightly stiff, traditional British, middle-England messaging. But American awards shows have much more razzmatazz, much more showbiz, and perhaps a broader range of people being involved. We felt we’re not about revolution, we’re about evolution.”

[From Variety]

I didn’t actually watch the whole show, I only watched the clips they put online. From what I saw, the BAFTAs kind of abandoned what made them special – the OG BAFTAs were staid and traditional, but they kept things simple and didn’t waste everyone’s time with all of this filler BS like awkward rap songs about the female nominees. I get that producers wanted to try to appeal to younger demographics – a dilemma faced by every awards show – but putting this all on Ariana’s shoulders is not the answer. This was the kind of dumb idea which should have died swiftly in the pitch meeting.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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31 Responses to “BAFTA producer defends Ariana DeBose following her cringey ‘rap’ performance”

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  1. Emily_C says:

    Social media allows middle school bullying to last forever. Also middle school attitudes. Caring about if someone is “cringe,” are you kidding? How many people are 12 years old inside for eternity and telling the girl they’ve decided is “uncool” she can’t sit with them?

  2. Woke says:

    People are saying she is too sensitive and shouldn’t have deactivated and should have leaned into it but not everyone have that type of personality. Why would she have to join in on the jokes let her feel.what she feel and come back stronger.

    • Emily_C says:

      Ye olde “If you don’t participate in our bullying of you then it’s your fault.” She’s not “too sensitive” — the people bullying her are just mean.

  3. Ang says:

    “Razamataz” is such a perfect word for this. That’s exactly what it was, for better AND worse.

  4. M says:

    These shows don’t just happen. There is so much planning and writing in advance, so to put the blame solely on Ariana is gross. She basically did the same kind of performance while hosting the Tony’s last year, but I guess it’s more acceptable to the theater crowd.

    • The Hench says:

      Yep – so carefully planned and timed that the camera knew where and when to focus on each actress as they were mentioned and film their reaction. Which also suggests that they knew ahead of time too.

    • sunny says:

      This part! I mean, the bit was a mess but there were lots of people involved. And frankly, many bits/performances at entertainment shows don’t work so it is not like this is unique or unexpected.

      People should chill with the vitriol.

  5. Jillian says:

    Oof, that was rough! But that’s live performance, sometimes it doesn’t work and Ariana is a professional. It’s sucks that people are being so rude, I certainly don’t look to the BAFTAs for super cool rapping. Far more scandalous is giving Austin Butler a best actor for his ridiculous Elvis drag, good grief

  6. Amy Bee says:

    Nick Bullen is the guy who was trying to get the Invictus Games to host a charity concert in LA in the middle of covid and when they said no thanks he ran to his friend Roya Nikkhah to tell her. He also runs Trueroyaltytv so perhaps BAFTA should have gotten somebody else to produce the show. If they wanted an American style show maybe hire someone from the US to produce it. I’m sorry Ariana felt she had to delete her Twitter account tho.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ Amy Bee, this is extremely interesting as well as disturbing information on Nick Bullen.

      So apparently Bullen doesn’t know what he is doing and instead of taking responsibility for what happened during the BAFTA ceremony, he’s allowing Ariana to take the fall. Bullen should come out to the public and take full responsibility for the ceremony and denounce everyone for bullying Ariana. In addition, Bullen should extend an apology in private and public to Ariana.

  7. Smart&Messy says:

    Piling on someone is never fair, and Ariana and BAFTA people don’t deserve that either. But it is fair to say that I think it was really dumb. The whole concept beyond the fact that she couldn’t execute that dumb idea. They should have nixed it after one rehearsal, if there was any.

  8. OriginalLeigh says:

    After viewing the clip, I really don’t understand why such a big deal was made about this on Twitter? Performances fall flat all the time. Why do people have to be so mean about everything? Ugh.

    • Emily_C says:

      Willy’s team banned a journalist whom Putin doesn’t like. But here’s someone else who can be served up to the press and social media. Someone else with certain characteristics, hm…

      • BothSidesNow says:

        @ Emily_C, isn’t this the playbook for the Britshidmedia to roast Ariana all while ignoring the fact that the man-child Bulliam banned the journalist whose documentary was up for an award???

        We can’t allow the public to know the lengths to which Bulliam will align himself to Putin’s political buddies so we will simply focus on trying to destroy Ariana’s reputation and mental health instead.

      • kirk says:

        “Someone else with certain characteristics, hm…” Uh-huh.
        Well now that I’ve had to go look up the performance online, rather than snippet here, I can say with certainty the only thing really cringey about it was the catatonic audience members who, despite all their supposed acting chops, couldn’t be bothered to pretend to smile or enjoy the show.

    • Nanny to the Rescue says:

      Not many interesting things have come out of the BAFTAs. The fashion was mediocre, there were no surprises with the winners, and this is the closest to memorable from the whole show (too bad it’s in a negative way). But it’s only been two days, I’m sure people will move on to the next cringe before the week is out.

    • Kate says:

      That’s the internet for you.

  9. girl_ninja says:

    It was just cheesy. This is on BAFTA for writing a weird and dumb song. She gave her all and performed it. It’s whatever and now she a gif/meme forever.

    • Fabiola says:

      She did not give it her all. Her voice sounded awful and she was out of breath. Not sure if she was sick or didn’t rehearse enough but it was a poor performance.

  10. DiegoInSF&LA says:

    I saw the clip without the context of it being cringe and found it earnest and cute. The did the thing line obviously is the weakest.
    Remember the more active people are on Twitter, the less of a life IRL they have, they’re basement dwellers.

  11. Annalise/Typical Virgo says:

    the side to side pics at the bottom of her nude netted nightgown and bodysuit mess, and the MUCH better black dress in the other pic, just shows how INSANELY unflattering the nude monstrosity was. Her body looks amazing in the black dress, that netted nude thing does something to her body that is just WRONG. imo

    note- I realize I should have referred to the color of the netted mess as beige, not nude. certainly is not remotely close to Ariana’s skin color, so calling it nude it pretty ridiculous. It is BEIGE.

  12. Ann says:

    Jamie Lee Curtis nodding her head and trying to get into it just makes me love her even more. What a kindhearted gem.

  13. AnneL says:

    I don’t get what the big deal is either. That type of performance doesn’t suit the BAFTAs. Certainly it doesn’t suit the crowd. But so what? She did it, it was a little cheesy, now it’s over. It’s ridiculous that people are getting so worked up about it that the poor woman had to get off social media. People need to get a life.

    Ariana is a very talented woman, a deserving Oscar winning actress. She doesn’t deserve to be mocked so much over what was just supposed to be a fun performance at an awards show. This is on everyone involved so let them share the heat. Or just turn the heat down, FFS.

  14. RoSco says:

    Okay, the Angela Bassett line is where I stopped watching both times I tried, but after you said that was the worst line I made it through because I knew it wouldn’t get worse. *sigh*. She tried something new and I’m not mad at that. It wasn’t great, but at least it wasn’t boring.

  15. Thelma says:

    I watched it live on Britbox and I thought it was fine. She gave it a lot of energy. What’s the controversy? People need to get a life.

  16. Feebee says:

    I watched it, didn’t think anything of it – as in it was a song and dance number at an awards show. I didn’t think it was out of place. I didn’t feel any cringe factor (long time Oscar watcher). I mean seriously, so these people think they’re too good for it? They (the critics who went OTT with this and on ADB) need to get over themselves.

    And I know it’s the “BAFTA”s but it’s just the BAFTAs. The ones who allow their puppet President to ban nominees (easy since he did it at his own event too I guess) and whose winners list has some calling for performers of colour to get the hell out of the UK to find success.

  17. Andrea says:

    It’s very telling that this is what the BAFTAs are putting their energy into discussing after the show. It’s a convenient distraction from the fact that despite 40% of the nominees being people of color, 100% of the winners this year were white.

  18. j.ferber says:

    The performance wasn’t THAT bad, and far better than I could have done it. She’s an actor, not a singer, and she tried it. So what? The bullying is bullshit, really. But adults acting like junior high kids is nothing new for me. I taught high school for over 2 decades and I can TESTIFY that some of the teachers did act like junior high bullies with other teachers. Never would have believed it until I witnessed/experienced it myself.

  19. Frippery says:

    Ariana is an incredibly gifted actress, dancer, and singer. Go watch Hamilton. Go watch West Side Story. She has absolutely nothing to prove. Can’t wait to see her in I.SS.

    That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

  20. Robert A. Phett says:

    Theater people are the most insufferable attention whoring cringe inducing humans on the entire planet. Just say the damn lines already stop singing n dancing you useless thieves of joy and oxygen.