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Esteemed Actress Lupe Ontiveros Dies of Cancer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andres Chavez Sun Staff Reporter   
Thursday, 02 August 2012 03:33


This Aug. 21, 2008 photo shows actress Lupe Ontiveros at the 23rd Annual Imagen Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. Ontiveros, the popular Texan actress known for her portrayal of Yolanda Saldivar in "Selena," died Thursday, July 26, of cancer at the Presbyterian Hospital in the City of Whittier, Calif., according to friend and comedian Rick Najera. She was 69.

Award winning actress Lupe Ontiveros died July 26 in Whittier, Calif. She was 69.

Her son, Nicholas Ontiveros, said the cause was liver cancer.

Her 35-year career included roles in screen, stage and television. She won the National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Chuck and Buck" and was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on "Desperate Housewives."

She played the mother in the original production of "Zoot Suit." She played the role on Broadway and in the movie. To younger viewers, she is probably best known as the maid in "The Goonies." Ontiveros had said that it was her favorite role.

Playing the maid was nothing new to Ontiveros. She said that over the course of her career she has played a maid more than 150 times, as she did in James L. Brooks' Academy Awardwinning film "As Good as It Gets." She attributed that to Hollywood stereotyping, and the lack of variety in roles offered to Latino actors.

But she was proud of her work as a maid. It gave her steady work and she did not regret portraying working people with dignity. As she stated in an interview, she made chicken salad out of chicken manure. Ontiveros once told the New York Times, "I'm proud to represent those hands that labor in this country. I've given every maid I've portrayed soul and heart."

Her talent as an actress extended far beyond maids. She was the murderous fan in "Selena" and a domineering mother in "Real Women Have Curves," which brought her a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. Her portrayal of the killer in the 1997 film "Selena," starring Jennifer Lopez, was so vivid that she was hissed by the singer's fans when they would see her in public for years after the movie was released.

Ontiveros was active with Latino acting organizations and theater groups. She was often seen as a role model and would give young Latino actors the benefit of her experience. Two of her three sons are hearing- impaired and she was an advocate for that cause. She voiced the grandmother in the animated PBS series "Maya & Miguel." She persuaded the producers to incorporate American Sign Language in one episode.

When her death was announced, the Internet was flooded with messages expressing sadness at her passing.

UCLA Professor Jose Luis Valenzuela posted on Facebook, "Our beloved sister, Lupe Ontiveros, is gone and our hearts are broken ... She is a founding member of the Latino Theater Company and our board of directors for 27 years. She was full of life and she was full of love and compassion. We laughed, we partied, we cried and we mourned together. She lived life to the fullest as we all should."

Local visual artist Angela Maria Ortiz added, "Lupe rest in peace. We'll all miss you so much. Your talent, generosity, your amistad is such a great lost … For those of us who had the pleasure of hanging with you over the years, its a huge lost. I'll always remember the moments with you, always fun, even if the conversation was serious."

Ontiveros was born Guadalupe Moreno on Sept. 17, 1942, to Mexican immigrants in El Paso, Texas. Her parents worked hard and eventually owned two restaurants and a tortilla factory in El Paso. They sent Guadalupe to dance classes and gave her piano lessons. After graduating from high school she attended Texas Woman's University, where she majored in psychology and social work.

After she got married, she followed her husband to California where he hoped to establish himself in the automobile business. Ontiveros was working as a social worker when her artistic leanings led her to pursue acting in the 1970s.

Ontiveros, who lived in Pico Rivera, Calif., is survived by her husband Elias Ontiveros Jr.; sons Nicholas, Alejandro and Elias; and two granddaughters.

Memorial and Funeral Services for Lupe Ontiveros

Rosary and Services (Open to the public) Thursday, Aug. 2, 7- 9:30 p.m.

St. Hilary's Church, 5465 Citronell Ave., Pico Rivera, CA 90660. The family wishes that photos not be taken during the open casket.

Funeral Mass (Open to the public) Friday, August 3, 10 a.m.

St. Hilary's Church, 5465 Citronell Ave., Pico Rivera, CA 90660. The family wishes that photos not be taken during the open casket.

Funeral and Internment to follow (Open to the public) Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary, 3888 Workman Mill Road, Whittier, CA 90601

A private reception will be held for family and friends (Closed to the public)