Broadway icon, best known for her role as Anita in the original 1957 Broadway cast of “West Side Story,” has died at age 91. Rivera died Tuesday in New York after a brief illness, her daughter said in a statement provided to CBS News.
In recognition of her groundbreaking achievements on the Broadway stage, Rivera, a role model for fellow Latinas, was presented with 10 Tony nominations and emerged as a winner twice. In 2018, she was bestowed with a distinguished Tony Award for her Lifetime Achievement in Theatre.
Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero Montestuco Florentina Carnemacaral del Fuente was born on January 23, 1933 in Washington, D.C. She was one of five children and her father passed away when she was just seven years old. Her mother then had to raise all five children by herself.
In an interview with CBS’ “Sunday Morning,” the individual stated, “I found the rhythm. I found the tempo. I found my pulse. I was understanding and embracing my sexual allure. And the rhythm was intense.”
In her 2023 book, “
“I see myself as two individuals,” Rivera explained. “Chita and Dolores.” She acknowledged that Dolores possesses a darker side, but credits her for giving her the drive to pursue her career. “She’s the one with the determination and bravery.”
Rivera used her determination to propel her onto the Broadway scene during a time when it was rare for Latinas to secure roles. She achieved fame through her role in “West Side Story” and went on to star in other successful productions such as “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Chicago,” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
to be elected to Congress
Rivera was the initial female of Latin American descent to win a seat in Congress.
In 2002, Aretha Franklin received the Kennedy Center Honors for her lifetime achievements in the performing arts. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama recognized her as an “agent of change” and awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
During her time working on “West Side Story,” she encountered another dancer named Tony Mordente and they eventually got married. They have a daughter named Lisa. The statement mentioned that Rivera’s daughter Lisa Mordente and three siblings, Julio, Armando, and Lola del Rivero, are still alive.
As reports of Rivera’s passing spread, messages of sympathy and admiration for the renowned Broadway star flooded social media platforms.
, who played Anita in the 1961
The cinematic adaptation of “West Side Story,”
She expressed that she was captivated by Rivera during their first encounter and felt privileged to be mistaken for her.
Moreno shared on Instagram that Chita Rivera’s talent is everlasting. She recalls being blown away by her performance in Mr. Wonderful and asking, “Who is that?” When she learned that this incredible person was from her own community, she couldn’t help but feel proud.
Throughout the years, there were instances where we were mistaken for one another, which I have always considered a great honor,” she stated. “She embodied the spirit of Broadway. As I compose this, I am toasting to this extraordinary woman and dear friend. Cheers, Chita, my friend!”
Kristin Chenoweth, a performer in both acting and music, expressed her admiration for Rivera by stating that she had always been her role model. In a tweet, she wrote, “You were the only one, then everyone else. I have always looked up to you and will continue to admire you not only for your talent, but also as a person. You were a strong and inspiring woman. The rest of us can only hope to be like you. Rest in peace, Chita.”
Kathy Hochul, the Governor of New York, commended Rivera for her pioneering career.
“Chita Rivera, a legendary performer, illuminated every space she entered, from the Bronx to Broadway,” expressed Hochul. “She broke through numerous barriers, brought happiness to theaters throughout the United States, and forged a way for future generations of actors. My sincere sympathies go out to her loved ones.”
Jason Alexander, known for his role in “The Rink” alongside Rivera in 1984, praised her as one of the greatest co-workers he has ever had.
“This extraordinary woman, the incomparable,” he tweeted. “Chita Rivera was one of the greatest spirits and colleagues I’ve ever known. She set the bar in every way. I will cherish her always. Dance in heaven, my friend. #ripChitaRivera.”
Mia Farrow, an actress, also paid tribute to Rivera on social media, describing her as “genuine” and “remarkable.”
“Chita Rivera was a true legend of Broadway – a captivating performer who excelled in acting, singing, and dancing,” she wrote on Twitter. “Anyone who was fortunate enough to witness her talent on stage will never forget the experience. She left a lasting impact on us all. We are grateful for the incredible and irreplaceable Chita Rivera.”