Puerto Rican actress and performer Rita Moreno received backlash on social media after she defended Lin-Manuel Miranda in an interview on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” after Miranda was criticized for the alleged lack of representation in his recent project.
“Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel? That really upsets me,” Moreno said to Colbert.
“You can never do right, it seems,” Moreno added. “This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn’t. Lin-Manuel has done that really singlehandedly, and I’m thrilled to pieces and I’m proud that he produced my documentary.”
Colbert asked, “So are you saying that while you may understand where people’s concerns come from, that perhaps it’s misplaced in criticizing him in this?”
“Well, I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?” Moreno said. “There’s a lot of people who are Puertorriqueños, 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, and it would be so nice if they hadn’t come up with that and left it alone, just for now. I mean, they’re really attacking the wrong person.”
As reported by NBC News, “‘In the Heights’ follows an ensemble, with the leads primarily being of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent.”
This is not the first time Moreno, whose skin was darkened with makeup for her role in “West Wide Story,” has spoken admirably about the diversity among Puerto Rican people.
In a 2019 interview, she discussed the racial aspects of the famous 1961 film, saying, “Puerto Rico was colonized by the French, the Dutch and the Spanish and so we are many colors. I am one and I really resented it when they put very dark makeup on me because that’s not my color. I thought the Sharks should have all of their own natural colors. Some were dark, some were copper skin, some were fair.”
She added, “I remember one time saying to the makeup man who was making me up, ‘I really hate this color because this isn’t the color I am.’ And he actually said to me ‘What, are you racist?’ I was so stunned that I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. That’s really also how little people know about Puerto Ricans.”
Social media users went after the Puerto Rican EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner after her comments on “Colbert,” seemingly accusing her of taking the worse position because of her own lighter skin color.
As NBC News reported, one user wrote, “I love Rita Moreno. Yes, Lin-Manuel has done whole lot. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t do better with representation for Afro Latinos. Why does the fair skinned always say wait your turn to darker skinned people?”
I love Rita Moreno. Yes, Lin-Manuel has done whole lot. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t do better with representation for Afro Latinos. Why does the fair skinned always say wait your turn to darker skinned people?
— Angie (Kathy) Grady (@akgesq) June 16, 2021
Journalist and CNN analyst Natasha Alford piled onto Moreno, writing, “Colbert even tried to throw Rita Moreno a line. She doubled down instead. This is how the status quo is preserved.”
Colbert even tried to throw Rita Moreno a line. She doubled down instead. This is how the status quo is preserved. https://t.co/WOXJ0zAZCI
— Natasha S. Alford (@NatashaSAlford) June 16, 2021
Artist Bree Newsome wrote on Twitter, “I love Rita Moreno but this is the opposite of it. We have had a century of movie roles being reserved for the lightest skinned Latino, Black & Asian ppl. This is not breaking new ground & there is nothing for dark skinned ppl to be waiting for[.]”
I love Rita Moreno but this is the opposite of it. We have had a century of movie roles being reserved for the lightest skinned Latino, Black & Asian ppl. This is not breaking new ground & there is nothing for dark skinned ppl to be waiting for https://t.co/fAw9w1qn9g
— We Can Build A Better World 🕊 (@BreeNewsome) June 16, 2021
Moreno was not the only person to come to Miranda’s defense, however, as “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah told Miranda that he felt defensive on the award-winning creator’s behalf.
Noah said, “I was like, ‘Lin does so much! We have black people singing on Broadway. Why are you doing this to Lin? You’re tearing down one of our own.’”
As The Daily Wire reported this week, Lin-Manuel Miranda received criticism from people who said that the film adaptation of his “In The Heights” stage musical did not include better representation of dark-skinned Afro-Latino people.
Miranda posted a statement to Twitter, saying, “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. 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’m truly sorry,” he added.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) June 14, 2021