Three years after lending his voice to the outrage with the Academy Awards and its members for not acknowledging the late and iconic Latina actress Lupe Ontiveros during its In Memoriam segment, Councilmember Huizar shares his 2013 letter as #OscarSoWhite takes on new heights and the Academy and Hollywood are under pressure to change.
February 26, 2013
Dear Mr. Koch:
I am writing to voice my utter disbelief with the omission of beloved actor Lupe Ontiveros from the Academy’s In Memoriam tribute at the 2013 Academy Awards Ceremony. While every year omissions of the recently departed in the film industry from the In Memoriam segment results in push back from experts, family and fans of a number of artists, the fact that Ms. Ontiveros was left out of both the In Memoriam segment and the expanded online tribute, which featured additional artists not included in the live broadcast, is egregious and disheartening to the Latino community in particular.
While I am sure that was not your intent, you need to know that Ms. Ontiveros was a torch-bearer and symbol of hope to the Latino community and her impressive résumé made her more than deserving to be included in the In Memoriam segment.
In a career that expanded over 35 years, Lupe Ontiveros appeared in more than 100 films, not to mention scores of television and theatrical productions. As a performer who came to acting late in life, Ms. Ontiveros had two strikes against her: she played older characters and she was Latina – both segments of the population that are underrepresented on screen. While the odds for success is difficult for any actor, for a Latina actor playing elderly women, any chance of success is nearly impossible (by her own account, Ms. Ontiveros played maids at least 150 times on stage and screen). Yet she fought against stereotype, and Ms. Ontiveros’ talent rose to the top in critically acclaimed performances in films such as El Norte, The Goonies, Zoot Suit, As Good As It Gets, Chuck & Buck (which garnered her an Independent Spirit Award nomination), Selena and Real Women Have Curves, among many more.
Mr. Koch, Lupe Ontiveros didn’t succeed because of Hollywood, she succeeded in spite of it. Even so, until her dying day, she held out hope that she would one day win an Academy Award – she certainly had the talent to make that happen. If she would have been included in the In Memoriam segment, that would have offered a bittersweet but fitting tribute to an incredible actor and community icon.
Councilmember, Council District 14