Rita Moreno: A Q&A With a Legend for Hispanic Heritage Month
One of only a handful of people on this earth with an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner), Rita Moreno is truly a living legend. But just because her showbiz résumé is the stuff most people can only dream of doesn’t mean she’s anywhere near done.
The Nuyorican icon just released her first-ever Spanish album, a timeless collection of songs called Una Vez Más (One More Time), produced by Emilio Estefan. As she’ll proudly tell you, “It’s pretty fabulous, and it speaks to the fact that I can still sing at 83.”
“We have fun stuff, we have ballads, we have a jazzy version of ‘Brazil,’ which I've been doing in my concerts for years and years that I just love,” adds Moreno. “We also do a version of ‘Somewhere’ [from West Side Story] in Spanish called ‘Un Lugar,’ which is absolutely beautiful -- I actually think it’s prettier and more soulful than the one in English.”
Working with Estefan, who also recruited her for his “We’re All Mexican” pan-Latin unity song recently, was “the greatest thing in the world that can happen to anybody,” she says. Indeed, Moreno shines throughout Una Vez Más, which opens with a gently swaying cover of “Preciosa,” a tribute to her beloved Puerto Rico.
Being that this is Hispanic Heritage Month (and she's hosting the Hispanic Heritage Awards Oct. 9), we got Moreno to indulge us in a fun Q&A fit for a legend, where she looks back on some of her most memorable moments in music, movies, theater and more -- the good, the bad, and the hilarious!
You won’t believe what one of her biggest fans once said to her…
My favorite co-star of all time:
Award that has meant the most to me:
The Oscar, because it was the first and because it’s still the award to win.
Best piece of advice I ever got:
Last movie that made me cry:
Revolutionary Road with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet absolutely destroys me. They were both so wonderful in it.
Role I’m proudest of:
Anita in West Side Story. And playing Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard onstage in London.
Role I'd like to have erased from my acting résumé:
At least three-quarters of the ones I played during what I call my “dusky maiden” phase.
Song I sing in the shower:
“Somewhere” from West Side Story. I sing Broadway stuff in the shower, mostly.
Favorite curse word:
The quality I most admire in others:
I think it’s thoughtfulness, or kindness, which really is thoughtfulness.
The quality I most despise in others:
Boy, there’s so many. Arrogance -- I have very little tolerance for that.
Most fun I ever had on a set:
Doing The Electric Company was the most fun ever.
The craziest thing that was ever said to me by a casting director:
“Can you speak with a Hispanic accent?” But the craziest thing that was ever said to me, by anyone, was when I was standing in a lounge with the cast of The Four Seasons (1981), and someone tells me, ‘There’s a man here who is your biggest fan and would like to meet you.’ So I said, ‘Sure,’ and he comes over to say hello and he says to me, ‘What happened to your ass?’ [Laughs] I didn’t even know how to respond! I don’t know if I had gotten skinnier, but he was really looking forward to meeting my buttocks. I guess it didn’t stick out enough to suit him. Everybody’s jaw dropped.
My message to little Puerto Rican girls and Latina girls who want to enter into this business:
Education, education, education. And perseverance.
Best gift I ever received:
My daughter, Fernanda. She’s now in her 40s, but she’s still my baby girl. I call her my little bird, because when she was born she had little cheeks like a Walt Disney bird and a little beak. I still call her Birdie.
Most prized possession:
A picture of me embracing Obama. That’s not going to please everybody but it’s a wonderful picture of both of us smiling, and he’s giving me the National Medal of Arts [in 2009].
It’s always been the same one made by Balmain, Vent Vert. It was introduced to me by my boyfriend at the time, Marlon Brando. It smells green and very fresh.
Time-tested beauty secret:
I don’t have one because I happen to have pretty terrific skin. The only thing I do is keep it clean and I use a very good moisturizer made by Kiehl’s.
Favorite place in the world:
Favorite show on TV right now:
The Good Wife -- I still love it.
Best compliment I ever got:
That I’m a kind person -- for me, that’s very important.