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Only a select few people in showbiz have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony - and Rita Moreno is one of them. She's the only Hispanic woman to do it - not surprising, since Rita's been breaking the mold her entire career. She paved the way for Latino actors and inspired the likes of Jennifer Lopez, who wanted to be Rita when she first saw her in 'West Side Story'.
Rita was born in Puerto Rico and at five arrived in New York City. She didn't speak a word of English and faced racial prejudice as she worked her way up and out of Spanish Harlem. She made her Broadway debut at 13, and then started in the movies - at a time when there was really no such thing as a Spanish-American actress in Hollywood. So, Rita was typecast. She played Latin sexpots, Indian 'squaws' and Mexican dancers. But all that changed with 'West Side Story', a ballsy film about gang warfare in which Rita stopped the show.
Armed with her Oscar from the film, she vowed not to return to films that reinforced Latin stereotypes - and didn't do a movie for seven years. Instead, she did six seasons on 'The Electric Company', won Emmys for roles on 'The Muppets' and 'Rockford Files', then shattered expectations once more, playing a tough-talking nun on the brilliant prison series 'Oz'. All of which has cemented her reputation as a national treasure. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from 'Dubya'. And she now shares her experiences as a motivational speaker - drawing on the lessons she's learned from more than five decades in Hollywood.
Rita is currently touring with Unique Lives, North America's foremost women's lecture series.