Top 10 Moments That Made Us Love Rita Moreno



Top 10 Moments That Made Us Love Rita Moreno

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Tal Fox
We love you, Rita Moreno! For this list, we'll be looking at moments from this icon's life and career that remind us just what an amazing trailblazer she is. Our countdown includes "West Side Story," "One Day at a Time," "The Golden Girls," and more!

Top 10 Moments That Made Us Love Rita Moreno

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Moments That Made Us Love Rita Moreno

For this list, we’ll be looking at moments from this icon’s life and career that remind us just what an amazing trailblazer she is.

What’s your favorite Rita Moreno moment? Let us know in the comments.

#10: When She Played Millie the Helper
“The Electric Company” (1971-77)

Back in the 70s, Moreno appeared in an educational PBS comedy sketch show aimed at elementary school children. From the producers of “Sesame Street,” this show was what you’d graduate to once you’d outgrown Big Bird and the gang. Through a variety of skits and characters, the cast, which included several big names, would help kids with their grammar and literacy. One of Moreno’s most memorable characters was Millie the Helper, an enthusiastic trainee who coined the show’s catchphrase, [“Hey, you guys!”] It was even incorporated into the opening titles later on. Unfortunately, the show was canceled at the height of its success.

#9: When She Played Renee Corliss
“The Golden Girls” (1985-92)

Throughout the 80s, Moreno was a frequent guest star on the sitcom circuit. One of her many appearances was as The Golden Girls’ neighbor Renee, a woman who grapples with Empty Nest Syndrome and an unavailable husband. The episode was intended as a backdoor pilot for the “Empty Nest” series, but unfortunately, it was a massive flop. Even so, Moreno’s performance stands out positively. Renee comes across as a sympathetic character that audiences could root for. But as the actress shared, the show needed a lot of work. By the time it was fit to air, she was no longer involved.

#8: When She Returned to the Stage at the Age of 80
“Life Without Makeup” (2011)

Rita Moreno’s eclectic life and career practically beg to be turned into a live show. And luckily for fans, that’s exactly what happened. About 25 years after her last stage performance, Moreno toured her autobiographical one-woman show across the U.S. Lucky ticket holders got to see her act out some of her most career-defining moments before their very eyes. The show was such a hit that it was even extended for an additional two weeks. Thanks to Moreno’s natural sparkle, an encore was almost inevitable. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

#7: When She Released Her Documentary
“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” (2021)

Debuting at the Sundance Festival in 2021, this documentary follows Moreno’s seven-decade plus career. Through interviews and other footage, we follow her journey as she defied the odds to become the superstar we know today. Not only is this a celebration of her career but it also highlights just how much of an important role model she is too. The documentary was met with critical acclaim and was a major hit with audiences too. This trip down memory lane was a perfect balance of joyous and emotional. It was the perfect tribute to Moreno, her career, and all of her trailblazing ways.

#6: When She Won an Emmy for Her Appearance on “The Muppet Show”

Rita appeared on “The Muppet Show” after running into Jim Henson at a local coffee shop and gushing over his work. Clearly, she made an impact as she would go on to make guest appearances on both “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show.” Among the episode’s many must-see moments is an unforgettable performance of “Fever” with Animal. It’s a memory that she still fondly holds onto to this day. We doubt that she expected her encounter with Henson to be all that life-changing, but it did lead to her first Emmy win. This brings us quite nicely onto our next entry.

#5: When She Become an EGOT Winner

Thanks to her Emmy win, courtesy of “The Muppet Show,” Rita became the first Latina to achieve EGOT status. Paving her way into the highly-exclusive club was an Oscar for playing Anita in “West Side Story.” Incidentally, this also made her the first Latina to win the coveted movie award. Then, in 1972 her work on “The Electric Company” earned her the “Best Recording for Children” Grammy. And in 1975 she was awarded a Tony Award for her role in “The Ritz.” Among countless other awards, she’s also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of the Arts. Winning a Peabody Award gave her PEGOT status too.

#4: When She Played the Sassy Abuelita Lydia
“One Day at a Time” (2017-20)

In 2017, Moreno returned to television, starring in the revival of Norman Lear’s 1975 comedy series. This time centering around a Cuban-American family, she played the feisty Abuelita Lydia. Moreno divulged that she only agreed to play the role on one condition. Fortunately, the writers were happy to oblige, giving us this vibrant, theatrical, and hilarious character, that you can’t help but love. She never failed to make us laugh but had a lot of emotional depth as well. The show took huge strides in representation, as well as putting Moreno back on our screens. So we’re still a little sore that it was canceled.

#3: When She Created One of Her Most Iconic Roles
“West Side Story” (1961)

There’s perhaps no role more synonymous with Rita Moreno than Anita from “West Side Story.” After years of playing ambiguously ethnic characters with harmful stereotypes, Moreno found the role model she needed in Anita. She was a strong and proud woman, who wouldn’t let anyone tell her who she is. Moreno connected with this strongly and carried these values forward from then on. And, as we mentioned earlier, she won a well-deserved Oscar for the role too. Now, 60 years later, she’s returned for the 2021 remake of her career-altering movie. She serves as an executive producer and plays a reimagined version of Doc called Valentina.

#2: When She Fought for Social Justice

All through her career, Moreno has been on the frontlines of social activism. She was just a stone’s throw away from Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington and was present for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. She’s also a huge advocate for women’s rights and has always been heavily involved in various Latinx causes too. In 2018, The Ellis Island Honors Society also awarded her with a medal of honor for her support of immigrant communities. Moreno has proven that she’s always ready to listen, learn and raise her voice for those who need it the most.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

When She Posed for Her Life-Changing Magazine Cover “Life Magazine” (1954)
This Photoshoot Actually Landed Her a Film Contract

When She Played Googie Gomez on Broadway “The Ritz” (1975)
The Role That Earned Her the T for Her EGOT

When She Voiced Carmen Sandiego “Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?” (1994-99)
Moreno Played an International Thief Based on the Popular Computer Games

#1: When She Became a Pioneer for the Latinx Community

As we’ve seen, Rita achieved a lot of firsts throughout her career but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. With no Latina role models to pave the way, it was up to her to shatter a lot of glass ceilings. She stepped away from making movies for several years because even after her Oscar win, casting directors still saw her as their stereotypical “house ethnic.” But when she returned, she came back fighting and refused to be pigeonholed anymore. The work certainly isn’t complete but Rita laid down the groundwork that made it possible. As a result, many performers have her to thank for their thriving careers today.