‘Selena’ actress Lupe Ontiveros dies, a passionate activist and actress
A funny, sassy leading lady who worked hard for the Latino community.
One of the most hard working Latinas in show business has passed away.
Lupe Ontiveros, who is best known for her roles in Gregory Nava’s El Norte and Selena, reportedly died yesterday after a battle with liver cancer. She was 69.
As a young girl watching Selena, I couldn’t stand Ontiveros. I didn’t know the woman personally, but I still felt (foolishly, I see now) I had a right to dislike her because of how well the Mexican American actress played Yolanda Saldívar, Selena Quintanilla’s fan club president and convicted killer. In that role, Ontiveros brought Saldívar’s obsessive nature to life on the big screen, and in turn made diehard Selena fans revisit the pain of the Tejano superstar’s tragic death. The role brought chills to my spine, and from then on I never forgot who Ontiveros was –- an incredible actress.
Born Guadalupe Moreno in 1942 in El Paso, Ontiveros was the daughter of middle-class Mexican immigrants. She worked as a social worker for almost two decades before she dived into acting. Ontiveros was also very active in multiple causes, most notably as a spokesperson for the Latino Commission on AIDS for 10 years.
“Thank you also SO SO SO much for what you did for the Latino Commission on AIDS!!!” he wrote. Karlo also shared an anecdote that touches on Ontiveros’ contagious sense of humor and generosity.
“Lupe used to go to Cuba and bring two suitcases full of condoms for the LGBTT community. When customs stopped her they would question the material, you know,” Karlo wrote. “She would reply: What do you think I come to Cuba for? I come here to HAVE FUN!”
At Cielo Latino gala in 2008, from left to right: Karlo, Latino Commission on AIDS’ Guillermo Chacón, Wilmer Valderrama, Rosie Perez, Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, Lupe Ontiveros, Carmen Dominicci, and the late Dennis De León, former president of the Latino Commission on AIDS.
The role that Ontiveros played the most in her career was that of maids. One of my favorite roles by the talented actress is alongside America Ferrera in 2002’s Real Women Have Curves. Ontiveros’ numerous roles throughout the years had not gone unnoticed; in 2010, she received the NALIP Lifetime Achievement Award.
As the sad news spread about Ontiveros’ death, fellow actors such as Fellow Esai Morales have reacted to the news. On his Facebook page, Morales described the actress as “unique and singular.”
“I miss her and can’t quite believe the indomitable one has left us so soon,” he wrote. “I love you, Lupe. What will we do without you…?”
Our thoughts are with Ontiveros’ family.
Below is Ontiveros’ full interview with María Hinojosa, part of WGBH’s One-on-One series.
(Photo: Facebook.com/VotoLatino ;Cielo Latino photo courtesy of Karlo)