Rosie Perez almost looked like an entirely different person starting her career. She thanks Jennifer Grey for steering her in the right direction.
Rosie Perez Was Impressionable In Her Younger Years
Her first agent encouraged the actress to mimic the “Caucasian” look. It would guarantee her more roles in the industry and, of course, make their job easier. “She told me that if I dyed my hair blond and got a nose job, ‘I can get you more jobs. Because you’re not black,'” she shared with Variety.
Perez is very proudly Latina and has never shied away from her roots. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ like, ‘thank you, fired,'” she recalls thinking. The White Man Can’t Jump star knew it was a messed-up situation but was at the agent’s mercy. That is until she ran into fellow actress Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing fame. “I had nobody; I had no money,” she tells Variety.
Jennifer Grey Smelled The Racism
“Jennifer and I clicked instantly,” Perez recalls. She tells of how willing the Criminal Justice actress was to put her name on the line for Perez.
“I haven’t seen that woman in ages, but I think she’s phenomenal. She’s like, ‘I cannot believe how racist this industry is.’ She picks up the phone and calls Jane Berliner at CAA and says, ‘You need to represent this actress.'”
She was signed and ended up in two roles for white women to play! White Men Can’t Jump and later Fearless. “It was just a magical summer,” she says. “And when you’re scrolling on your TV to see what you want to watch, and March Madness comes up, and then there’s ‘White Men Can’t Jump,’ you can’t help but watch.”
With Fearless, it was director Peter Weir and stared Jeff Bridges who advocated for Perez in the role of a grieving mom, which led to an Oscar nom!
Rosie Perez Now Has A Seat At The Table
The actress gushed about how far her career has come; she hasn’t been invited back to the Academy Awards since 1994, when she was nominated. “Not even to sit in the audience, not to present, nothing — and I’m a member,” she says. That’s crazy.
“I love the Academy Awards. I cheer on my peers, but it hurts. It’s like when your home team doesn’t ask you to come back into the stadium after you got up to bat and hit the home run,” she remembered being shut out all those years.
Thankfully, Perez’s career is still going strong; she has continued to snag roles in popular films and TV series like Pineapple Express, Your Honor, The Flight Attendant, and more. This hasn’t stopped Perez from experiencing hate in the industry.
In 2020, an ABC executive named Barbara Fedida was fired for commenting on Perez and claiming she couldn’t read the teleprompter. That same person was later accused of making racially insensitive comments about Good Morning America host Robyn Roberts.
Perez never commented on the situation; she said, “Not going there.” Class act!