Rita Moreno is one of just a handful of performers-and the only Latina-to win the entertainment industry's four most prestigious awards. Her breakout performance came as Anita in West Side Story, earning her an Oscar for best supporting actress and paving the way for Hispanic actors to play more meaningful roles. She won the Grammy for her contribution to The Electric Company Album, and Tony for best featured actress in The Ritz, and two Emmys for guest appearances on The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files. She has continued to work steadily in feature films and on television, most recently in recurring roles in the prison drama Oz, and the sit-com Happily Divorced.
Moreno has lived a life that is worthy of its own Hollywood movie. Despite early success, however, the legendary actress, singer, and dancer had to struggle for years against Hollywood typecasting as well as against her own self-doubts.
With her signature wit, warmth, and candor, Moreno describes her journey from early childhood in Puerto Rico through a spectacular career that spans seven decades and still continues to flourish.
1:19pm - First standing ovation of the day! We're so excited Rita Moreno is on stage!
1:22pm - Moreno begins by celebrating some of the other amazing women who have spoken at past Simmons Leadership Conferences.
1:24pm - "In a way my Mom was learning how to sail her own ship as she sailed away from Puerto Rico, her unhappy marriage, and the stinging poverty at the time." - Moreno
1:26pm - "That's when I first saw her, this enormous green lady, wearing some sort of crown on her head...holding out what looked like a huge flaming ice cream cone...All I can think is, oh my gosh, a lady runs this country." - Moreno
1:28pm - "I really wanted to be somebody..The problem was I wanted to be somebody else." - Moreno
1:30pm - Moreno sings "Dream" by Ringo Starr
1:33pm - "My mom allowed me to pursue my dreams, like many immigrant mothers...she let me reach for the stars." - Moreno
1:38pm - Moreno discusses being discovered by a talent scout at her after school job dancing and singing."
1:43pm - "The studio executives created roles that objectified young ethnic actresses." - Moreno
1:45pm - "What an experience to work with Gene Kelley and be given a non-ethnic part" - Moreno on her part in Singing in the Rain
1:49pm - "I was 28 when I first met her on the set of West Side Story, her name was Anita, she was Puerto Rican and she fought for her rights...Becoming Anita became a personal mission for me...Playing Anita fundamentally changed my outlook." -Moreno
1:51pm - "To this day, I find service an important discipline in my life." - Moreno
1:54pm - "We are going to take a flying leap, to age 60!" - Moreno
1:57pm - "My mind starts racing.. What do I say to this classless piece of insensitivity?" - Moreno on being asked to read for the part of the whore house madam.
1:58pm - "I looked at him and said "I'm sorry, but I don't do whore house madams..." and I slowly picked up my things and walked out of the room." -Moreno
2:00pm - Moreno sings "This Is All I Ask" by Frank Sinatra