It had never occurred to me that I might be nominated for the Oscar. It just didn’t seem in the realm of possibility, especially for a Puerto Rican girl. Only one Hispanic in history had ever won an Oscar: José Ferrer, who had earned the Best Actor award for playing a non-Hispanic role in Cyrano de Begerac.
There followed a flurry of negotiation with the movie company. The result was that they would release me for only three days: one day to fly over, one day for the Oscar ceremony, and one day to fly back to the jungle.
I didn’t care. The important thing was that I was going! I ordered a heavily brocaded dress made of special Japanese obi fabric, a gorgeous gown with a black bateau top that I still have (and can still get into, happily).
On April 9, 1962, I attended the Academy Award ceremony, George Chakiris, who had also been nominated, was my escort, and on the way in the limo we laughed and practiced our “loser faces”—the fake smiles we would need to show when other actors won in our categories.
I was convinced that I wouldn’t win that I almost gave that fake smile when my name was called: “And the winner is…Rita Moreno!”
Stunned, I made my way up to the stage and stared in disbelief as Rock Hudson handed me the Oscar. I was so gitty that I was literally speechless. I didn’t thank anyone, because I hadn’t prepared a speech. All I managed to say was, “I do not believe it! And I leave you with that!” before I ran off.
— Rita Moreno: A Memoir