Rosie Perez Fired Agent Who Told Her to Go Blonde and Get a Nose Job for More Roles: 'I Couldn't Believe It'

The Academy Award-nominated star opened up about her career's trajectory — as well as tackling inherent industry racism — in a new Variety cover story

2022 Free Arts NYC Gala Honoring Artist FUTURA
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Rosie Perez is getting candid about her Hollywood beginnings.

In a new cover story interview with Variety, the actress, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1994 for her role in Fearless, detailed the shocking, racially insensitive piece of advice her then-agent suggested to her in order to fit the industry's standards.

"I don't want her to be canceled, but she told me that if I dyed my hair blond and got a nose job, 'I can get you more jobs. Because you're not Black.' I couldn't believe it," Perez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, told the outlet. "I was like, 'Thank you, fired."

She then realized she "had no money" and no support system – that is, until she met Jennifer Grey, who became her Criminal Justice costar, friend and pathway to her new agent.

"Jennifer and I clicked instantly," Perez shared. "I haven't seen that woman in ages, but I just think she's phenomenal. She's like, 'I cannot believe how racist this industry is.'"

Grey then called up Jane Berliner at Creative Arts Agency and found Perez a new manager, just like that, leading Perez to "White Men Can't Jump" and a role in the Ron Shelton film originally written for a white woman, per Variety.

Rosie Perez Variety cover Photo credit is Celeste Sloman for Variety
Celeste Sloman for Variety

In speaking with PEOPLE CHICA in 2018, Perez admitted that the industry "wanted me to be completely white-washed." But its long upheld glass ceiling of racism was something she was not afraid to shatter.

"I've never shied away from portraying my Puerto Rican-ness… You have to have that tenacity and that self-confidence to walk in a room and say 'This is how I see the character and this is how I want to play it.'"

Rosie Perez
Rosie Perez. Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic

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In doing that for herself, Perez — who was also a co-host on The View from 2014-2015 — her advocacy for the Latino community got louder too.

"I think it's really really important for Latin actors and actresses to go out for roles that are not specifically designed for a Latino character," Perez told the outlet.

She added: "Just go out there and let them know that we come in all different shapes and sizes, that we have different sensibilities to who we are, we grew up differently… When you go out for a role, let them know that we're not just one thing.. we're human beings first and Latinos second."

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