Rita Moreno says resilience, therapy helped her cope with racism and sexual abuse

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“I think I owe a huge debt to psychotherapy. Without it, I wouldn’t be the Rita you know and love.

It was acting legend Rita Moreno speaking to the Guardian. Moreno, 89, launches the media challenge this week ahead of the remake of “West Side Story” which hits theaters on December 10, as well as the documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It”, now airing on Netflix NFLX,
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In fact, the EGOT winner (as in, scoring Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards), which turns 90 the day after the theatrical release of Stephen Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ musical, was all the rage among real-time Google searches for most of Monday morning thanks to his interviews viral on “60 minutes” and the “Today” show, as well as a long profile in the Guardian.

And that’s probably because Moreno has shared candid accounts of her 70-year career, including the racism and sexual abuse she suffered, as well as her out-of-the-box relationships with icons like Marlon Brando. and Elvis Presley.

“If you’ve been traumatized since you were a kid to believe that you were a ‘pin-up’, that you were a garlic mouth, that you are not worthy, it takes a long time to get rid of it.” , she said. the Guardian. “I entered therapy to get better. ”

Her trauma includes the rape by her agent when she arrived in Hollywood as a teenager. She said she kept him as an agent, however, because she was supporting her family – and needed to be able to continue working.

She also recalled being harassed by 20th Century Fox big boss Buddy Adler and the late Harry Cohn, co-founder of Columbia Pictures – stories of sexual harassment by powerful men that resonate even more in light of the revival. of the #MeToo movement in 2017. Indeed, workplace sexual harassment has contributed to widening the gender wage gap and can cost survivors between $ 600 and $ 1.3 million over their lifetimes, according to the report. Time’s Up Foundation and Institute for Research on Women’s Policy.

Read more: Sexual harassment in the workplace can cost survivors up to $ 1.3 million over a lifetime

And: A step-by-step guide to getting help if you’re a victim of sexual harassment at work

“I want women to know that all the rewards in the world will never make up for the things I have experienced in my life,” she told “60 Minutes” interviewer Bill Whitaker. “The ultimate goal is respect and self-respect, which took me a long time to gain. ”

She also shared her frustration at being cataloged in a series of roles she described as ‘dark girls’ or ‘little island girls for men’, where her skin was darkened and she was asked. to speak with heavy exotic accents.

Related: Latinos in Hollywood Still Face an “Invisibility Epidemic” and Stereotypical Movie Roles

“It pains me to see myself doing such humiliating things,” she told Whitaker. “I accepted a lot, because there was nothing else. And I took them with great shame.

“I want women to know that all the rewards in the world will never make up for the things I have experienced in my life.”

And her Oscar-winning role as Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of “West Side Story” has always seen her transposed thereafter. She said she was offered roles in underage gangster movies.

But she was able to walk out of “West Side Story” with the confidence to be more selective about the roles she played, she said. And that led to her taking on more roles in theater, television, and one-woman shows, which earned her her eventual EGOT status.

Related: “Underfunded and Undervalued”: Stifling Black Talent in Hollywood Costs Industry $ 10 Billion

She has also become an activist for women’s rights and minority rights. She joined the 1963 March in Washington and attended Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Today she is the producer of Spielberg’s “West Side Story”, with music and lyrics written by the late Stephen Sondheim, and also plays a role in the movie that was written for her: Valentina, Doc’s widow, who was the owner’s candy store in the original movie.

She said she sees signs Hollywood is becoming more inclusive, although there is still a long way to go. ” It is important to note that [Tony] Kushner and [Steven] Spielberg made much of the fact that everyone playing a Latino had to be a Latino “in the remake of” West Side Story, “she noted on” Today “on Monday.

“I think Hollywood has changed. I think there are still things to be worked out. The representation Hispanics get is almost nil, “she told” 60 Minutes. ”

Moreno also opened up about some of her relationships, including her tumultuous time with Brando, who was an “incredible” lover, she told The Guardian – and dated Elvis Presley to make him jealous.

But she likes to be alone in her 80s. “I love being by myself, ”she told The Guardian. “It’s not difficult to be alone. In fact, it’s great, if you like the person you’re living with.


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