15 Fabulous Lessons I Learned From Puerto Rican Actress Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno is an actress, singer, and dancer with over 70 years of experience in entertainment. Some of her most important work includes West Side Story, The King and I, and Singin’ in the Rain. She has worked in musicals, children TV shows, movies, and theater.
Keep reading to see 15 fabulous and life-changing lessons that this extraordinary Puerto Rican actress can teach you (as she did me!). I hope you like them!
Rita Moreno’s Background
Rita Moreno is one of the sixteen actresses who have received the Triple Crown of Acting, which is winning the Academy, Tony, and Emmy awards. In numbers, she has been part of 17 soundtracks, nominated to 36 awards, won 31 and worked in 161 movies and TV shows.
But what sets her apart? Regardless of a low income background, she managed to overcome all of the challenges she could find in the performing arts industry. She succeeded despite the weight of being a foreigner, a woman of color, having English as her second language, and coming from an immigrant family. She somehow became a much-needed inspiration for Latin people, young Puerto Rican boys and girls, and women around the world.
Moreno and her late husband, cardiologist and internist Dr. Leonard Gordon, had one daughter, Fernanda. She is a jewelry designer.
15 Lessons Rita Moreno’s Life Has Taught Me
1. Don’t Worry About Your Background (Or Original Name)
Do not for one second think that it is impossible for you to follow your passion because of your background. Rita Moreno was born as Rosa Dolores Alveiro in Humacao, Puerto Rico in 1931. She was the daughter of a rural farmer and a seamstress, and in her early life she had to deal with many sacrifices and noes.
Rita still became an award-winning star and has had a very long career in Hollywood. So, your background will not determine your future.
While some think Moreno is an invented artistic name, she changed it after her first stepfather’s last name.
2. Some People Are Racist and Sexist
It is important to speak up against sexism and racism with every chance we get. Nowadays we get more chances than in 1950. Rita had to endure constant discrimination, not only on set, but behind cameras and in other subtleties such as getting casted for secondary, negatively stereotypical, inaccurate, ethnic roles.
She didn’t only face countless of uncelebrated roles, but also received less money than her costars. Rita persevered and became a role model for women, Latinas, women of color, foreigners and Puerto Ricans. And how could she not? She overcame every obstacle clearing the path for those coming.
One of Rita Moreno’s quotes is “I was always barefoot” while explaining her self-imposed exile from Hollywood.
3. It Is Never Too Late To Speak Up
Now that there are substantially more and better chances for people like Rita, she has used some important microphones to speak up against the movies she worked in and the roles she played. The actress has pointed out all of the stereotypes and cultural inaccuracies she had to overlook in order to have a job. It is never too late to give voice to the old you.
4. It Is Not Enough To Persevere, Also Pave the Way
If you follow Rita Moreno’s steps, you will become a huge inspiration and aspiration for people behind you. Use your spotlight to help those who look up at you. Rita has been an advocate to end racism and gender inequality, to help immigrant families and of course for Latino representation in arts.
5. Learn To Say Enough Is Enough
Rita Moreno boycotted her line of work for 7 years. She said she had had enough of the mistreatment she received from Hollywood, which she thought would change after winning an Oscar. Refuse to do a demeaning job that you are too good for—there will always be a silver lining even if it is only peace in your soul.
6. Follow Your Dreams
Follow your dreams regardless of how wild they seem. Rita had to face all sorts of barriers and ceilings, and she consistently shattered them because her eyes were on the prize. She wanted to sing, dance and act and she made it happen. She was born with modest opportunities on a Caribbean island, had Spanish for first language and they went to the USA to become an immigrant family. Anyone else would have been fed up with a couple of years playing humiliating roles and being discriminated against constantly. Do not let go of your passion.
7. Work, Work, Work
Don’t think for a second that one good job will consagrate you. Keep working, you’ll never know for what people will remember or appreciate you. Never stop pursuing goals and just keep going. Rita Moreno worked in 161 movies and TV shows in the span of 70 years, so she never stopped working and developing her skills.
8. Take Every Chance You Get
Maybe you want to go one way, but the chances that are handy might seem to not lead you there. Take every chance you get and every opportunity that lands in your hands. Because you don’t know it yet, but one thing can take you to the next and soon enough you’ll get to your goals.
This is what happened to Rita, when she pursued small roles that eventually got her to make The King and I, where she met Jerome Robbins—who got her into West Side Story, where Rita Moreno got an Oscar.
9. Go For It
Don’t be shy, don’t hesitate, just take the leap, we’ll see from there. Don’t ever think you’re no good, or that everyone is better than you. You got that job for a reason, you have gone this far thanks to your hard work, just go for it. For more inspiration watch her documentary, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go for It.”
10. You Can Be Latino and Win Awards
Rita Moreno won the Oscar in 1962 for Best Supporting Actress as West Side Story’s Anita. A Grammy for The Electric Company TV show soundtrack in 1971. A Tony Award for playing Googie Gómez in the Broadway show The Ritz in 1975. An Emmy in 1977 for singing on The Muppet Show. Making her one of the 15 showpeople to clinch the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) and the first hispanic woman to win an Oscar.
11. Be Yourself
What a cliché, huh? But this is one of the most important lessons Rita Moreno has taught me. When we feel like we don’t belong or are a good fit in one place, we subconsciously try to change our ways imitating others that do. It is perfectly human, since it is our first learning method as babies, to imitate. But if you do it hard enough or for long enough you start losing yourself.
Your own essence is unique and appealing to the correct eye. Rita didn’t try to be American or caucasian, she was a Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican from the beginning of her career. And see for yourself how that worked out.
12. Use Your Disadvantage To Your Advantage
No one wanted to be a Puerto Rican actress in the ‘50s, but everyone wanted to be Rita Moreno in the ‘70s. That disadvantage of yours is also a unique feature that defines you, use it in your favor.
Thanks to Rita’s ethnicity she scored the role of Anita in West Side Story and that granted her an Oscar. Be creative and find a way of turning it around.
13. Don’t Worry if You Don’t Have Connections
Don’t worry if you don’t have connections. If you work hard and display your talent enough, people from high places will reach out to you.
Rita Moreno received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. She performed at the inauguration event of President Bill Clinton in 1993 and in the White House in 1994.
Rita never needed favors from people in high places, these people will come to you naturally.
14. You Have What It Takes To Get Over Traumatic Events
Rita Moreno’s life is about work and achievements, but also traumatic events. She overcame leaving her home and little brother behind. She faced daily sexism and racism and being involved in abusive relationships with love partners and managers.
None of them tarnished her talent and impeccable work and pushed through it all. Eventually, she came on the other side shining and the global audience celebrated her. So remember, you have what it takes to get over hardships.
15. Just Show Up
It is annoying how easy this sounds, but it is the most important part of the job. Rita lived through undescriptable personal and work-related good and bad situations but always kept showing up. She always understood that a person of her condition needed to work, tolerate, and show up twice as much as any other person on set. Do not let others bring down your spirit and don’t derail, always show up.
16. Love Yourself
This last lesson is different from the rest because it is the only one I didn’t learn from Rita’s actions but from her words. According to her, she didn’t love herself and had low self-esteem. Imagine what she would have done otherwise! So, love yourself, take care of yourself, see what is best for you in terms of work, emotions and especially relationships, unike young Rita Moreno.
She says her role model was Anita, the role she played in West Side Story. Anita was a dignified, self-respecting individual. And Rita looked up to her plenty. So give yourself credit and don’t talk yourself down. Other people’s opinions, perspectives and critics don’t matter. Give your best and love yourself.
Need More Inspiration?
Rita Moreno inspired 70 years of generations of people that identified with her. She gave her life to her work without suspecting the great impact and precedent she would set not only in Hollywood but in the whole world. Her story is a story of love, passion, and dedication, of perseverance and hardwork, of recognition and aspirations.
Let Rita Moreno inspire you to change your life in one more way. Learn Rita’s first language by practicing conversation skills. Tailor a Spanish package that meets your every need by the hand of one of our certified Spanish teachers from Guatemala and immerse yourself in the Latin arts world. Become one of our 24,000+ monthly enrolled students that trust our 10 years of expertise. Talk to our native Spanish speakers and get the most of this experience. Sign up for a free class today!
Want more Spanish resources? Check these out!
- 9 Amazing Science Books in Spanish for Kids
- 10 Uplifting Shakira Songs That Will Teach You Spanish
- 10 Best Sites to Teach Yourself College Level Spanish
- 15 Good Family Movies to Watch in Spanish on Netflix
- 25+ Resources to Promote Spanish Listening Practice for Kids
- Spanish Worksheets for Kids: 10 Trustworthy Websites
- 10 Hilariously Unfortunate Names in Spanish
- The Ultimate Resource List for Beginners Learning Spanish