As the latest star featured on PBS Newshour’s “Brief But Spectacular” series, 83-year-old Rita Moreno recalled a career spent fighting industry racism and typecasting, a fight where she came out on top. Puerto Rican-born Moreno got her start on Broadway at 13 and was under contract with MGM in Los Angeles by age 16. She is most famously known for her role as Anita del Carmen in the film adaptation of West Side Story, for which she won an Oscar. Before that role, she had resigned to playing stereotypical Latina roles. Not much changed after.
“Nobody gave a damn,” she told hosts Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill. “Being the house ethnic was destroying my life and my sense of myself, because I had been consigned to play every dusky maiden you have ever seen in your life in movies.” She pushed past the stigma and had fun with her career, highlights of which include singing and dancing alongside Animal, the Muppet’s drummer. “I think it’s one of the funniest things I have ever done,” she said. “I really had a hard time not laughing.”
In addition to having been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Moreno is one of 12 people to have ever won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, an honor known as EGOT. She was the first person of Latin descent to do so. She just released her first all-Spanish album, Una Vez Mas.
Watch the segment at PBS Newshour.