Chita Rivera, Latina star of “West Side Story,” passed away at the age of 91

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Known for her iconic role as Anita in the original Broadway cast in 1957, she left us after a brief illness. The news was shared by her daughter in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday.

Chita Rivera, Latina star of "West Side Story," passed away at the age of 91
Photo Credits : Billboard. Chita Rivera, Latina star of “West Side Story,” passed away at the age of 91

Rivera, a Broadway icon who aimed to open doors for Latinx artists, received 10 Tony nominations and won twice. In 2018, she was honored with a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

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Born on January 23, 1933, in Washington, D.C., as Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero Montesquieu Caraño, she was one of five siblings. At the age of 7, her father passed away, and her mother had to raise the children on her own.

Rivera, a dancer from a young age, earned a scholarship to the School of American Ballet at 16. She started her dance career at the Palladium nightclub in Manhattan, expressing on CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” “I felt the beat. I felt the heartbeat. I was matching my heartbeat with the beat, and it was hot.”

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In her 2023 memoir, “Chita: A Memoir,” Rivera described herself as two personas: Chita and Dolores. She mentioned that Dolores had a darker side, but “I believe that Dolores is responsible for my career. She is brave.”

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Rivera’s enthusiasm inspired her to leap onto the Broadway stage when few Latinx artists were cast, gaining fame with her performances in “West Side Story” and other hit shows like “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Chicago,” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

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In 2002, Rivera received the Kennedy Center Honors for her lifetime contributions to the performing arts. In 2009, President Barack Obama honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom as a “change agent” for her work.

She had a daughter, Lisa, with fellow dancer Tony Mordente, whom she met on the set of “West Side Story.” Rivera’s death occurred with her daughter Lisa Mordente and her three brothers, Julio, Armando, and Lola del Rivero, by her side, as stated in the release.

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Following the news of Rivera’s passing, tributes and heartfelt messages poured in on social media from Broadway figures. Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of “West Side Story,” expressed her admiration and remembered their first meeting.

“Chita Rivera is eternal,” Rita Moreno wrote on Instagram. “She is all of Broadway. I’m raising a glass to this amazing woman and friend. Chita, amiga, salud!”

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