Latina representation is seriously lacking in Hollywood. That’s why we give so much love, admiration, and appreciation to the actresses who have broken barriers and been recognized for their stellar work. In the acting world, an Oscar or an Emmy is a huge accomplishment – proof that your work is great and that your peers recognize it. That’s why I wanted to highlight the Latina actresses who have received one of these statuettes for their work. Here’s to many more Latinas joining their ranks!
Rita Moreno for West Side Story (1961)
While no Latina has won the Academy Award for Best Actress (and only four have been nominated Fernanda Montenegro (1998), Salma Hayek (2002), Catalina Sandino Moreno (2004), and Yalitza Aparicio (2018)), three have nabbed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress: Puerto Rican Rita Moreno, Cuban American Mercedes Ruehl, and Kenyan-Mexican Lupita Nyong’o. Rita was the first, winning in 1961 for her role as Anita in West Side Story.
Mercedes Ruehl for The Fisher King (1992)
Mercedes Ruehl made sure that Rita Moreno wasn’t alone as the only Latina to win an Academy Award for acting. In 1992, she took home the Oscar for playing Anne Napolitano, partner to Jeff Bridge’s troubled radio host Jack in the film The Fisher King.
Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave (2014)
Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o has been nominated for EGOT status, having already won an Emmy and an Oscar. When she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave, Lupita made history as the first Mexican and Kenyan to win this honor – and only the seventh Black woman.
Rita Moreno for The Muppet Show (1977)
What’s better than the mashup of Latina legend Rita Moreno and our childhood friends the muppets?! On episode 105 of The Muppet Show, which aired in New York City on September 20, 1976, Rita “parodies her combative image,” fighting with Miss Piggy, asserting her influence, and having fun. Her performance nabbed Rita Moreno an Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program Emmy in 1977.
Rita Moreno for The Rockford Files (1978)
Rita Moreno is the Latina whirlwind that Hollywood can’t stop. The PEGOT (Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner doesn’t have one, but two Emmys for her acting work. Her first one was for her appearance on The Muppet Show and the next year, she was honored with a second statuette, this time for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, for her role on The Rockford Files. Rita has a total of six Emmy nominations, two wins, and one honorary award.
America Ferrera for Ugly Betty (2007)
When America Ferrera won her Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Ugly Betty, she made history playing a fish-out-of-water Chicana “nerd” at fashion magazine Mode. America was the first Latina to win in this category but admitted that she felt that others didn’t think she deserved the win. Nevertheless, Ugly Betty cemented America Ferrera as a Latina Hollywood heavyweight, a trailblazer, and an actress/producer/director worthy of praise and accolades.
Alexis Bledel for The Handmaid’s Tale (2017)
Actress Alexis Bledel is Argentinian on her father’s side, and her mother was raised in Mexico. In 2018, she became the third Latina to win a statuette for acting in the US. She got her Emmy for her role as Dr. Emily Malek/Ofglen #1/Ofsteven/Ofroy/Ofjoseph #1 in The Handmaid’s Tale. The show has garnered Alexis a total of four Emmy nominations (including one this year).
Jacqueline MacInnes Wood for The Bold and the Beautiful (2019 and 2021)
Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, who is of Brazilian ancestry, has won not one, but two Daytime Emmy Awards for Lead Actress in a Drama Series. They are both for her work as Steffy Forrester in the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, a role she has played since 2008. Jacqueline appears to be the only Latina to have won a Daytime Emmy for acting.
Lupita Nyong’o for Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices (2021)
In 2020, Lupita Nyong’o was nominated for her first Primetime Emmy Award (Outstanding Narrator) for her work in Serengeti (the “Destiny” episode). This year, she was nominated again, this time for Outstanding Limited Performance in a Children’s Program for Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, and took home the statuette. In the episode in which she appears, Lupita reads from Sulwe the children’s book “about a young girl grappling with colorism” that she authored.
International Emmy Awards
Cristina Banegas for Televisión por la Inclusión (2012)
The Emmys aren’t landlocked to the United States. The International Emmys ensure that outstanding actresses receive recognition for their work on TV shows and movies. In 2012, Argentinian actress Cristina Banegas became the first Latina to receive the Best Performance by an Actress International Emmy. She won for her work on Televisión x/por la Inclusión, a show that in each episode looks at a story “related to social problems.”
Fernanda Montenegro for Sweet Mother aka Doce de Mãe (2013)
The work of South American actresses on television was highlighted and honored again a year later when Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro followed Argentinian Cristina Banegas as the second Latina to win the International Emmy for Best Performance by an Actress for the movie Sweet Mother. In it, she plays 85-year-old Picucha, a widow who now has to navigate life while living alone.