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'West Side Story' actress Rita Moreno was just a young girl when production decided to make her skin darker. Now she's an advocate for diversity!

Did young Rita Moreno’s skin get painted darker for ‘West Side Story’?

While we are still many months away from the release of Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, a new adaptation of the 1961 film and Broadway classic, audiences have been able to satisfy their musical craving with In The Heights, currently streaming on HBO Max as well as in theaters. However, due to the film’s casting decisions, many are upset over the fact that the afro-Latinx community is under-represented within the story itself. 

In The Heights, directed by Jon M. Chu and created by Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a film that has for the most part been widely accepted by audiences around the world. However, due to the film casting all of its main parts with mainly light-skinned actors, the film has received much criticism over the weeks. These groups have even forced some legendary actresses to come out to defend Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Rita Moreno, who played young Anita in the original West Side Story, recently came out in defense for Lin-Manuel Miranda. Many will recall her confessing only a couple of years back that her skin was actually painted darker for the original West Side Story; maybe she’s using her own personal experiences regarding diversity to stand up for a man whose creativity spawns from embracing his Puerto Rican self. Let’s delve in. 

Miranda’s apology

Miranda, who wrote the music & lyrics for the musical with the book written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, wrote the following sentiment on Twitter: “I started writing In The Heights because I didn’t feel seen. And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us – ALL of us – to feel seen.”

He continued: “I’m seeing the discussion around Afro-Latino representation in our film this weekend, and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don’t feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles.”

“I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling unseen in the feedback. I hear that, without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the world feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy.”

Miranda concluded: “Thank you for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my future projects, and I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community. Siempre, LMM.”

Rita Moreno speaks up

Beloved Boricua actress Rita Moreno, the young star of the original 1961 West Side Story, stood up for Miranda during a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, saying “Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel Miranda? That really upsets me.” 

She continued: “It’s like you can never do right, it seems. This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I mean, I would love to say I did, but I couldn’t. Lin-Manuel has done that, really, single-handedly, and I’m thrilled to pieces, and I’m proud that he produced my documentary [2021’s Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It].”

Rita Moreno, who looks as young as ever, continued to emphasize how “There’s a lot of people who are puertorriqueño, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. And this is how it is. I mean, they’re really attacking the wrong person.”

What are your thoughts on Rita Moreno’s comment defending Lin-Manuel Miranda? Do you agree that this cherished actress looks as young as ever? Have you checked out In The Heights yet? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.

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