The actress once thought "it seems show-off-y" to put her awards on display

By Jeff Nelson
Updated October 14, 2015 04:10 PM
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Christopher Polk/NBC/Getty

Rita Moreno was the third person to ever attain EGOT status, but there was a time when the icon didn’t have her impressive collection of accolades on display.

In fact, Moreno – who will appear on an ”Inspiring the New Generation” panel at this weekend’s Festival PEOPLE en Español in New York – once kept her trophies in a box in the closet.

Until her husband, the late Leonard Gordon, prompted her to show them off, that is.

“He said, ‘A box in the closet? Why don’t you put it out on display?'” Moreno, 83, says in the new issue of PEOPLE. “‘And I said, ‘Well, it just seems show-off-y. I don’t like that.'”

But, Gordon insisted: “‘Rita, you have earned these. You didn’t buy them.’ So that’s when I took them out,” Moreno recalls, adding with a laugh: “It’s a big shelf, you can imagine.”

While she doesn’t like to flaunt her prizes, she does still get sentimental about them.

“Every once in a while, I look at that collection of hardware and go, ‘Man, that little Puerto Rican girl really made out,'” says Moreno, who moved to the U.S. with her mother when she was 4 before going on to earn acclaim for roles on the stage and screen, including her turn as Anita in West Side Story.

In addition to a Golden Globe and Presidential Medal of Freedom, her Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony keep some interesting company in her living room.

When her grandson, now 17, was younger, he liked to play with her Academy Award, which he would call her “little gold man.”

Then one day, when he was 8 or 9, he came home with a plastic soccer trophy.

“He said, ‘I want to keep it here. Can I keep it next to the little gold man?'” Moreno remembers. “And to this day, that’s where that little trophy sits – with my Oscar. Isn’t that adorable?”

And her expansive collection of hardware only continues to grow. In December, the star – who just released her first Spanish album, Una Vez Méswill be paid tribute at the Kennedy Center Honors.

Don’t expect her to retire any time soon, though.

“I’ve been asked, ‘What’s left?'” says Moreno, laughing. “My answer: I’m working on the Nobel Peace Prize.”

For more on Rita Moreno, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday. And for more on Festival PEOPLE en Español, which runs Oct. 17 – 18 in New York, click here.