IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Rita Moreno fiercely responds to criticism of her appearance throughout her career

The 89-year-old actor has some colorful words for critics of her appearance.
/ Source: TODAY

Rita Moreno is reflecting on her seven-decade-long career in the new documentary, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.”

The 89-year-old actor looked back on some of the tougher moments of those 70 years in an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, tackling topics like how she was perceived as a “sex object” in Hollywood.

93rd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Rita Moreno on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.Handout / A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

“It never occurred to me not to withstand it,” Moreno said, reflecting on the unprovoked attention from powerful men in Hollywood. “I figured, and I was right, that that was how Hollywood was run and how it functioned. And I just went with the flow, as they say, not happily.”

The EGOT-winning performer revealed that it was the same unwanted attention that led her to go to therapy, something she calls “the best favor” she did for herself.

“You hate it when they call you a sex object,” she said. “And here’s the truth, and this is something I didn’t mention (in the film) only because I didn’t think about it. I would dress up in a very, very provocative way. I always wore tight, tight little dresses with my cute little bum. Too much makeup, usually. And the earrings and stuff, and I somehow never acknowledged that that wasn’t helping.”

Moreno continued, caveating her previous point by referencing the social change that the #MeToo movement has made in Hollywood to call attention to this kind of sexual harassment in the industry.

“On the other hand, as the #MeToo movement would say right now: Well, f**k them! ... You can dress any damn way you please,” she added. “You can wear as many loop earrings, and as low-cut a neck as you want, and that’s also true.”

Previously, the "One Day at a Time" star has opened up about how she was not treated as a serious actor when she was younger but ultimately was able to learn how to “find value” in herself. She recalls many of her early roles being “embarrassing” and referred to that as her “dusky maiden period.”

Moreno always had hope that she would be cast in something “more meaningful,” an opportunity that arose with “West Side Story” in 1961. In 1962, Moreno won an Oscar for best supporting actress in the classic movie musical, one of the most iconic roles from her 70-year career.

"Interestingly, the character of Anita became my role model after all those years,” she said, explaining how it was the first time she could play someone who stood up for themselves. “Anita was a young Hispanic woman with dignity, self-respect and enormous strength."

West Side Story
Rita Moreno in "West Side Story."Getty Images

The 1961 film will be getting the Hollywood reboot at the end of this year. Steven Spielberg’s take on “West Side Story” will be debuting in December, 60 years after the original film hit theaters. While Ariana DeBose will be taking on the role of Anita, Moreno has a special part in the film as a shop owner named Valentina, who employs Tony, portrayed by Ansel Elgort.

In addition to her role as Valentina, Moreno also served as executive producer on the film.

Recently, Moreno came under fire for some other comments she recently made when defending Lin-Manuel Miranda and "In the Heights" following criticism regarding the lack of dark-skinned Afro Latinos in the film's cast, particularly in the film's leading roles.

"You can never do right, it seems. This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America," she said while appearing on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" Tuesday night to promote her doc. "I couldn't do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn't. Lin-Manuel has done that really singlehandedly, and I'm thrilled.

"Well I'm simply saying, can't you just wait a while and leave it alone?" Moreno later asked, adding, "...It would be so nice if they hadn't come up with that and just left it alone, just for now. I mean, they're really attacking the wrong person."

On Wednesday, she took to Twitter to apologize for her comments that prompted swift reaction on social media.

"I’m incredibly disappointed with myself. While making a statement in defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Colbert Show last night, I was clearly dismissive of black lives that matter in our Latin community. It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others," she tweeted.

She continued, "In addition to applauding Lin for his wonderful movie version of In the Heights, let me add my appreciation for his sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward. See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks."