Legendary actress Rita Moreno is about to receive the nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in the arts – and it cannot come at a better time.
The 83-year-old recently released her very first Spanish-language album “Una Vez Mas” decades after she dazzled fans on “West Side Story” and went on to win all four of the biggest prizes in show business – the Oscar, the Tony, two Emmys and a Grammy.
“I am thankful for being 83, almost 84, and still being here and having a career. I could not ask for more,” Moreno told Fox News Latino recently.
She told the Washington Post that the award is “a recompense for all the hard years in a profession that challenged my sense of dignity and self-worth at every turn.”
“A singular and formidable reminder in this third act of my life, that falling down and getting up is very much a part of the American Dream,” she added.
Moreno and four others will be celebrated at Sunday night’s Kennedy Center Honors. President Barack Obama cancelled his appearance at the Honors. He will be delivering a national address at 8 p.m.
However, the Obamas will hold a reception for the honorees at the White House late Sunday afternoon.
Moreno’s selection came a year after the Kennedy Center was blasted by activists for not choosing a Latino artist.
Since 1978, when the Honors were established, only four honorees – Placido Domingo, Chita Rivera, Carlos Santana and Martina Arroyo – were of Latino origin. Santana and Arroyo were selected in 2013 after the Center was publically shammed by Latino organizations, particularly by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.
Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, told FNL in July that Moreno’s honor was “long overdue” and he is delighted that it has happened.
“Finally,” he said. “It’s a reminder that the Kennedy Center has not been as inclusive in more than 30 years.”
“Star Wars” creator George Lucas, songwriter Carole King, conductor Seiji Ozawa and actress Cicely Tyson are this year’s other honorees.
Stephen Colbert will host the gala for the second time. It will be broadcast Dec. 29 on CBS.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.