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Sofia Carson on Preparing to Perform With Diane Warren at the Oscars: “I Still Pinch Myself”



Sofia Carson’s journey to the Oscar stage is an unusual one: The 29-year-old singer, songwriter and actress had her start guest starring on Disney Channel shows before breaking into film as the daughter of the Evil Queen (of Snow White infamy) in the network’s original movie Descendants. From there, she acted and created original music for the Netflix drama Purple Hearts. Now, she’s the vocalist behind Diane Warren’s Oscar-nominated track “Applause” from the anthology film. Tell It Like a Woman, composed of seven short stories centered on female protagonists. “I still pinch myself about the very real reality that I am talking about the Oscars,” she says of being asked to sing at the ceremony, “and that Lady Gaga and Rihanna will also be performing on the same stage.” For the rendition, Warren will join Carson onstage, the first time the writer has performed at the Oscars, despite her 14 nominations.

Carson and Warren’s collaboration began over social media. “I’ve always longed to work with [Warren], of course,” Carson recalls. “Diane [sent] a DM and said that she had a song that she thought was perfect for me, very much in line with who I was as a woman, as an artist and as a female activist.” The song came from Warren via email. “The moment I heard the song, I knew it would be one of the greatest honors of my life to be the voice of that anthem,” says Carson. “It was something greater than all of us.”

Years passed after a demo was recorded, with the movie delayed by COVID until “about six months ago, when we were getting ready to release the film and release the song,” Carson explains. During that time, “Applause” evolved into an emotional ballad. “I think we knew as I was doing the song that we had something special on our hands,” Carson adds. “With women literally fighting for their right to live and to speak, the song just felt like something the world needed to hear.”

Carson performed “Applause” with songwriter Diane Warren in Santa Monica in December

Carson performed “Applause” with songwriter Diane Warren in Santa Monica in December

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Carson also says “Applause” embodies her personal reflection of her identity as an artist with a responsibility to hold herself to account. “I’ve dedicated myself to ensuring that every word that I say, everything I write, every role that I play … I know that there’s one girl in some corner of the world that’s going to watch or listen to that,” she says, “And I want her to feel seen and inspired or in some way empowered. That has been the guiding light in every decision that I’ve made in this business. This song is part of a larger movement that we’re all fighting, every day, to create a new paradigm where gender parity isn’t the exception, but the rule.”

At the film’s Taormina Film Festival screening in Italy, Warren and Carson performed “Applause” for the first time, and Carson met some of the directors on Tell It Like a Woman, an international lineup that includes Taraji P. Henson, Catherine Hardwicke, India’s Leena Yadav, Argentina’s Lucía Puenzo and Italy’s Maria Sole Tognazzi. (Jennifer Hudson, who appears in the film, was also present.) “All of these women are part of this film and this movement, united together,” she says. “It was such a beautiful, instant sisterhood that was made.”

This story first appeared in a Feb. stand-alone issue of The News84Media magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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