Rita Moreno made history 56 years ago when she became the first Latina to win an Oscar for her role as Anita in “West Side Story” in 1962. Since then, only six Latinx actors have taken home the coveted prize. The Puerto Rican megastar reminded the Academy Awards, which had zero Latino nominees at its 90th ceremony, of this reality by re-wearing her classic gown on the red carpet.
“Do you know about this gown? This is a 56-year-old gown that I wore when I won my Oscar in 1962,” Moreno, who won “Best Supporting Actress” that year, told People. “It’s been hanging in my closet, and I go and stroke it now and then.”
The 86-year-old, who was accompanied by her daughter, Fernanda Luisa Fisher, wasn’t able to walk the red carpet with her evening dress during her historic win because that wasn’t yet a feature of the Academy Awards.
More than five decades later, however, and the vintage frock somehow feels 2018 glam. Made in the Philippines, it has a black strapless top with a sweetheart neckline as well as a dramatic, bell-shaped skirt with a metallic gold design.
“I would think it would tarnish,” the actress, the only Latina to have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards, told E!.
In this scary and confusing life, there are only a few things we know for sure. One of these things is that Puerto-Rican born legendary actress Rita Moreno is a national treasure who continues to give us life in the year of our Lord two-thousand and nineteen.
We need no excuse to celebrate the incredible Rita Moreno, and because we love her so much, we’ve compiled a list of 20 times (out of many) that Moreno was the queen we don’t deserve. Long live the queen!
1.When she gave Trump the middle finger on national television
Recently, Moreno The Queen herself paid a visit to Jimmy Kimmel live and recounted the story of the first time she met Donald Trump. When finishing up the story, she playfully told President Trump, “I’ve got a finger for ya,” and flipped off the camera. She definitely hasn’t lost her spunk!
2. When she insisted her character on “One Day At a Time” Be Written As a Sexual Being
When talking about her latest role as abuelita Lydia Riera in Netflix’s “One Day at a Time”, Moreno revealed: “[B]efore there was even a script, I said [to the writers]: I’d like her to be sexual. Because you don’t see that. Once people turn a certain age, that gets completely ignored by writers, and it’s a shame”.
3. When she guest-starred on Jane the Virgin
Fans of “Jane the Virgin” were delighted when it was announced that Moreno was cast as Rogelia de La Vega’s controlling stage mother, Liliana de La Vega. As for her performance, she didn’t disappoint: Moreno served up enough outrageous diva moments to keep us rolling on the floor.
4. When She Won an Oscar…
The award that started it all! Latinas everywhere felt truly recognized when Moreno won the (much-deserved) Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her incredible work as Anita in “West Side Story.”
5. …When She Won a Grammy…
Moreno continued her awards streak by winning a Grammy Award in 1972 for Best Children’s Album. The album was compilation of the songs from the hit children’s show, “The Electric Company”.
6. …When She Won a Tony…
Moreno continued to be the Latina Queen we don’t deserve by winning a Tony Award in 1975 for Best Lead Actress in a play for the Broadway production of “The Ritz”.
7. …And When She Won an Emmy
When she won an Emmy for hilarious work on “The Muppet Show” in 1977, the pure shock on Moreno’s face was probably due to the fact that she realized she was now cemented in the canon of history. It was the final award she needed to officially become “EGOT” status.
8. When she re-wore the gown she wore to the 1962 Oscars in 2018
In 2018, Moreno was kind enough to re-wear the original dress she wore to the Oscars in 1962—the year she took home the Gold Statue. She arguably worked that dress better at 86 than she did when she was a young ingenue.
9. When she blessed us with that whole performance in “West Side Story”
Think about it: Moreno didn’t have to go that hard for us. But, she did. She did.
10. When she dissed the problematic roles she was forced to play in her early career
Before she had enough industry clout to play more nuanced roles, Moreno was only offered parts that she later dubbed “dusky maiden” roles. Notably, she was forced to wear yellow-face in “The King and I” in the role of “Tutpim”–one of the King of Siam’s numerous wives. Later, Moreno had a few choice words to say about this time in her career: “I hated the dark makeup, being barefoot—all of it”.
11. Her controversial 1954 Life magazine cover
Before she hit the big time, Moreno was chosen as the cover girl for a particularly sexy issue of “Life” magazine where she was also featured in a multi-page spread. The issue got the attention of much of Hollywood, possibly due to the front page headline, which read: “Rita Moreno: An Actress’s Catalog of Sex and Innocence”.
12. When she kept it real in her tell-all memoir
Moreno shocked the public when she revealed intimate details of her passionate affair with legendary actor Marlon Brando in her 2013 autobiography, “Rita Moreno: A Memoir”. Of Brando, Moreno said: “To say that he was a great lover would be gravely understating what he did not only to my body, but for my soul. Every aspect of being with Marlon was thrilling, because he was more engaged in the world than anyone else I’d ever known”.
13. When She Received the Kennedy Center Honors Award
If you haven’t yet seen the video of Gina Rodriguez’s heartfelt tribute to Moreno during her Kennedy Center Honors Award ceremony, we highly suggest you take a look. Rodriguez’s tribute is extremely touching, as is Moreno’s emotional response.
14. She constantly keeps it hip
Never one to lose her sense of humor, Moreno made a hilarious entrance during the ___ commencement ceremony of The Berklee College of Music. We love how she’s not afraid to make fun of herself.
15. When she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom
In 2004, Moreno received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for “helping shape our nation’s cultural and artistic heritage”. It’s reasons like these why we love Moreno: her career has made us much impact on the broader US culture as it has on America’s Latinx community.
16. When she narrated the audiobook version of Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s memoir
Justice Sonya Sotomayor personally asked fellow Puerto-Rican Rita Moreno to read the audio version of her memoir, “My Beloved World”. Fitting, considering that Moreno “burst into tears” when she first heard the news that Sotomayor would be the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.
17. When she shared her philosophy on dealing with haters
In a Vulture interview that focused on her “One Day at a Time” success, Moreno dispensed a kernel of precious advice: “You don’t die if someone doesn’t like you…A woman in [group therapy] didn’t like me…and she just spewed utter dislike of me…I found out that you don’t die from being disliked. For me, that’s very important”.
18. When she went makeup-less to film an emotional scene
In the same interview, Moreno touched on the only time she’s ever been makeup-less on camera, in a touching scene in “One Day at a Time”. “I was actually very happy to do it,” she explained. “Maybe it’s my age, but I know I look good”. Yaasss Queen!
19. When she shared her philosophy on aging
“People tell me I look good these days,” Moreno said recently. “I look good because I feel good… It’s all about attitude”. We couldn’t agree more!
20. When she expressed unabashed joy at receiving the SAG-AFTRA Lifetime Achievement Award
One of the things we love so much about Moreno, is that she never seems to take her career for granted, and to that end, has never has come off as jaded by her success. A perfect example of this is when she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SAG-AFTRA and gushed that she was “so bloody happy”. We love you, Rita!
The 91st Annual Academy Awards took place Sunday night and this year, it was a night full of glitz, glamour, and, most surprisingly, a lot of Spanish language! (Diego Luna, Javier Bardem, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo del Toro all spoke Spanish during their speeches.)
Heading into the night, many viewed “Roma”, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s artful and semi-autobiographic film, as the Best Picture front-runner and indeed, the film racked up three Oscars. But ultimately, “Roma” lost the Best Picture award to Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book.”
Although The Oscars still woefully under-represent Latinas in almost every category, Netflix’s critical darling, ‘Roma,” has provided a major spotlight for Latinx talent and stories, employing a largely Latinx cast and crew in its production.
Latinos Win Big
Sunday night was a big night for the Latinx community, with Spanish-language film “Roma” amassing three Oscar wins out of a total of 10 nominations. “Roma” wasn’t the only winner for the Latinx community though: Cuban-American director Phil Lord’s animated feature “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” won for Best Animated Film. All in all, Latinos walked away with Oscars for Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Directing, and Animated Film.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, won the Best Director statue for “Roma”, marking the second year in a row that a Latino has won the award after Guillermo del Toro won last year. Cuarón also won the award for Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film–marking the first time Mexico has landed the award out of a total of ten nominations.
Cuarón began his impassioned acceptance speech Best Director first by thanking “Roma”‘s leading ladies, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. He then went on to thank the Academy for “recognizing a film centering around an indigenous woman–a character who has historically been relegated to the background in cinema”.
In another win for the Latinx community, “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” up-ended animation titan Disney to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. “Into the Spiderverse” revolves around the story of an Afro-Latino teenager moonlighting as Spiderman who discovers there are multiple versions of Spiderman in parallel universes.
Latino Director Phil Lord touched on the importance of representation in his acceptance speech, saying: “When we hear that a child turns to their parent and says, “[Spiderman] looks like me’ or ‘He speaks Spanish like us’, we feel like we already won”.
Latina Nominees Break New Ground
Most of the Latinx nominees for the night consisted of “Roma”‘s cast and crew, including Mexican actress Marina de Tavira for Best Supporting Actress, Yalitza Aparicio for Best Leading Actress, producer Gabriela Rodriguez for Best Picture, and set decorator Barbra Enriquez for Achievement in set design.
Yalitza Aparicio’s nomination, especially, was notable, as it was the first time in the Academy’s 90-year history that an Indigenous woman was nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role.
Although these Latinas didn’t walk away with a gold statue, their presence alone was encouraging enough for the historically under-represented Latinx community.
“It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now”
The winners and nominees weren’t the only Latinos making a splash at this year’s Academy Awards, however. Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem veered into political territory when he presented the award for Best Foreign Language film.
In Spanish, he stated: “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent,” which many interpreted as a dig aimed at President Trump.
Actor Diego Luna began his introduction of “Roma” by stating, in Spanish: “Ya se puede hablar español en los Oscars. Ya nos abrieron la puerta y no nos vamos a ir”. Translation: “It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now. They finally opened the door for us, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Spanish-American Chef José Andrés joined Luna in introducing “Roma”and praised the film for shining a spotlight on “all the invisible people in our lives–immigrants and women–who move humanity forward”.
As usual, Latina Twitter users had a lot to say about Hollywood’s biggest night.
Never one to beat around the bush, political commentator Ana Navarro remarked on the refreshing amount of diversity displayed onstage this year.
Other Latinas gave Alfonso Cuarón props for acknowledging domestic workers, a class of women that Hollywood often ignores:
Nuanced stories centered on domestic workers are few and far between in Hollywood.
This Latina expressed excitement at the novelty of a film featuring an Afro-Latino characters winning Best Animated Film:
Just the phrase “#WeSeeYou” says all that needs to be said about the importance of representation.
Some Latinas expressed disappointment that “Roma” was relegated to the “Foreign Film” category when its story transcended such labels:
Some members of the Latinx community were frustrated that “Roma” wasn’t awarded the Best Picture award.
Many Latinas were here for Javier Bardem condemning border walls:
He was one of the few actors of the night who dared to make a political statement–and in Spanish, no less!
And of course, Yalitza made us all fall in love with her more when she brought her mom.
The Mexican actress didn’t take home an Oscar last night, but there’s no doubting that her presence in Hollywood has changed the future of its landscape. Last night Mexican-American fans of the newcomer gushed about Aparicio’s role in bucking the light-skinned Latina stereotype that has so long been favored in Spanish-language films and TV shows.
Also, her appearance at the Oscars couldn’t have been more defining. After spending awards season turning heads in a series of dresses by Alberta Ferretti, Miu Miu and Prada, Aparicio took to the red carpet a pale tulle custom Rodarte gown designed specifically for her, the actress stepped out onto the red carpet with her mother at her side.
And finally, Latinas everywhere expressed their joy at hearing Spanish proudly spoken at the Oscars
The importance of normalizing Spanish’s presence in day to day life cannot be overstated–especially during a time when many Latinas are afraid to speak Spanish in public.
As usual, the Oscars were a night to remember. We hope that the Academy continues to support actors, producers and filmmakers of Latinx descent into the future.
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