Rita Moreno: A Q&A With a Legend for Hispanic Heritage Month

Rita Moreno 2015
Austin Hargrave

Rita Moreno

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.”

Watch Emilio Estefan's Star-Studded 'We're All Mexican' Video Now

“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.  

Rita Moreno to Host, Perform at 2015 Hispanic Heritage Awards 

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:

Marlon Brando.

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:

Cool it!

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].  

Favorite fragrance:

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.