Rita Moreno says there was a time she ‘didn’t like being a Hispanic’

Rita Moreno is widely known for breaking down barriers for Latino performers in Hollywood, but the legendary actor revealed Monday that she did not always embrace her Hispanic identity.

“For many years, I didn’t like being a Hispanic person,” Moreno, who is Puerto Rican, told TODAY show host Hoda Kotb while promoting her new film, “The Prank.” “It took a very long time to get over the feeling that I was an unworthy person, that I wasn’t pretty, or that I was a Latina.”

Moreno has previously opened up about her struggles overcoming her own insecurities after years of being typecast by major film and television studios as well as facing discrimination. She particularly details these challenges in her 2021 documentaryRita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It.”

When Kotb referenced some of these struggles during the interview, Moreno recalled being 5 years old and believing she had no value because some people made her feel othered.

Moreno said children are “tender” and susceptible to believing what others tell them. “When someone says that, you accept it.”

Rita Moreno on TODAY on March 4. 2024.
Rita Moreno on TODAY on Monday.TODAY

The 92-year-old added it took her a long time to work through such feelings. She also credited “years of psychotherapy” for helping her understand her value.

From “One Day at a Time” and “Jane the Virgin” to “West Side Story“ and countless other movies and TV shows, Moreno — one of the few Americans with what is called EGOT status as an Emmy-, Grammy-, Oscar- and Tony-winning actor — has accomplished a lot in a trailblazing career spanning seven decades.

Moreno made history as the first Latina to win an Academy Award, receiving the best supporting actress accolade for her role as Anita in the 1961 movie “West Side Story,” a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet centered around the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City.

She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, the National Medal of Arts in 2009, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2013, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015 and a Peabody Career Achievement in 2019, among other recognitions.

Her newest film, “The Prank,” sees Moreno star in the dark comedy as Mrs. Wheeler, a villainous physics high school teacher.

“She is the world’s meanest woman. I had so much fun,” Moreno said about playing the role. “The Prank” will be shown in select theaters starting next week.

Moreno also confirmed she is joining the cast of the upcoming horror film “Theirs,” alongside actors Harvey Keitel, Roselyn Sanchez and Udo Kier. A release date for “Theirs” has not yet been announced.

In her conversation with Kotb, Moreno also revealed her secret to maintaining a youthful spirit at 92.

“I love to laugh, and I love to make people laugh,” Moreno said. “My problem is getting serious sometimes.”

First appeared on www.nbcnews.com

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