The lack of Latinx representation in Hollywood means an even greater lack of recognition during awards season but there have been a few Latinas who’ve earned the coveted Academy Award. Rita Moreno is the most prominent Latina to win an Oscar — specifically the best supporting actress award in 1962 for her role as Anita in West Side Story. She remains the first and only Latina to win that award so there is still a lot of work to be done but we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the wins, though they may be few. Here are five Latinas from throughout history whose work has earned them an Academy Award.
Rita Moreno – Best Supporting Actress
Puerto Rican icon Rita Moreno was born on the island in 1931 and moved to NYC in 1936 and got into entertainment when she was young, starring in her first Broadway show when she was 13. She made history in 1962 as the first Latina to win an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in West Side Story. “I didn’t expect to win,” Moreno previously told the New York Times. “No one who’s watched it can argue with that.”
Beatrice de Alba – Best Makeup and Hair Styling
@LindsayLohan, Costume Designer, @SalvadorPerez and me at the @LizandDickNov25 premiere party tonight @BevHillsHotel. pic.twitter.com/astJx22o
— Beatrice De Alba (@BeatriceDeAlba) November 21, 2012
Beatrice de Alba began her career as a makeup artist working in film and TV and later she shifted toward wigs and styling hair for different eras. She worked as the Head of the Hair Department on the set of Frida, starring Salma Hayek, and she went on to win the 2003 Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hair Styling.
Brigitte Broch – Best Art Design
German-Mexican production designer Brigitte Broch was born in 1943 in Germany. She was nominated for an Academy Award in Best Art Direction for the now iconic film Romeo + Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes but lost to The English Patient. But a few years later, in 2001 she won the Oscar for Best Art Design for her work as set decorator in Moulin Rouge! starring Nicole Kidman.
Michelle Couttolenc – Best Sound
Born in Mexico City, Michelle Couttolenc is a sound engineer who won several awards for her work in the film Sound of Metal in 2021. Not only did she win an Academy Award for Best Sound but she was also the first Mexican women to ever win an award in this category.
Stage and film actress Mercedes Ruehl recently appeared in Hustlers with Jennifer Lopez but the industry veteran is known for leading performance in the play Lost in Yonkers and and her supporting role in the film The Fisher King (1991). She won the 1992 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her standout performance in the film which also starred Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges. Ruehl is of German, Irish, and Cuban descent.