Rita Moreno is widely regarded for her talented skills in various areas of the entertainment industry comprising film, television, and theater endeavors.
Her career has spanned over seven decades. During those years, she received numerous accolades, including an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Kennedy Center Honor.
She was recently presented the Stanley Kramer Award, where she used candid words to honor a significant figure in history for the start of her advocacy journey.
Rita Moreno Says Advocating For Social Injustice Issues Has Been “Exhausting, Exhilarating, And Life-Giving”
The Stanley Kramer Award was bestowed upon Moreno at the 33rd Producers Guild of America Awards on March 19. The Award honors those in the movie industry whose works raise public recognition of vital social matters.
PEOPLE reported that Jessica Chastain presented the award to “The King And I” star at the ceremony. The multi-faceted icon was spirited as she walked on stage to receive the honor.
Chastain admitted that she had been obsessed with Moreno and her achievements as the legend did whatever she felt. The 44-year-old further called her a role model and a guiding light in the entertainment industry.
While Moreno gave her acceptance speech, she recalled watching Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. At the time, Harry Belafonte invited her to the event.
The veteran actress began her speech, “I am not a person of religious faith, but for me, film has often been a sacred text that has spurred me to follow what [Abraham Lincoln] called, the better angels of our nature.”
She described how Dr. King’s speech commenced saying she sat on Abraham Lincoln’s steps in 1963, a few feet away from King.
With the proximity of her sitting to the preacher, she could hear his best friend, Mahalia Jackson, call out to him to tell the listeners about the dream.
King already began a different sermon at that moment; however, Jackson wanted people to hear ‘the dream’ speech that Moreno could bear witness to, thanks to Belafonte’s invitation.
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The movie legend’s acceptance speech further acknowledged producers, including Kramer, who continued advocating for fairness and integrity affairs.
“It is so meaningful to me and so gratifying to receive this extraordinary recognition and to be associated with his legacy. I am 90 now, and working for a lifetime in this business has taken tenacity and hard work,” the 90-year-old stated. She continued saying:
“Advocating for issues of social injustice, for the last 60 years, it’s been exhausting, exhilarating, and life-giving. Had it not been for those steps and the fire set inside me as a young woman, I certainly would not be here tonight receiving this wondrous honor.”
The lively star did not leave out her feature on “West Side Story,” which gained her an Oscar as the Best Supporting Actress and made her the first Latina actress to win an Oscar.
Being involved with Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner in the film’s production enabled the narration of the immigrant story, including elaborate characters and recognizing ethnicities.
She further mentioned that several people in her tribe had used the period of the awards season to advocate for issues in their designated works. Such issues could be climate change, general healthcare, voting rights, LGBTQ, among others.
“And I know that for some in the audience, and that in some audiences, has been known to create, how shall I say? A mild discomfort. For others, heart palpitation. After all, who do these actors, these Hollywood types, think they are? Citizens in a democracy? Well, f—them,” Moreno declared.
The genuine speech ended with a reminder that freedom of speech belonged to everyone. She then expressed gratitude for the award and promised to be more charming on another occasion.
The EGOT Recipient’s Career Did Not Take Off Following Academy Award
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Last November, The Blast recounted that Moreno opened up about her career struggles even after becoming the first Latina to win an Academy Award.
She told Bill Whitaker in an interview for CBS News’ 60 Minutes that after “West Side Story,” she could not get a job except in gang movies or minor productions.
This made her quit the Hollywood scene at the time; however, she returned to New York City and Broadway. She later won a Grammy for “The Electric Company” and a Tony for her Googie Gomez performance in “The Ritz.”
Last year, Moreno was quite excited to be a part of the “West Side Story adaptation,” partly because Puerto Rican characters were to be played by Hispanic actors.
She believed Hollywood had changed, although certain things still needed addressing, especially regarding the subject of Hispanic representation.