'#SeeHer Story' Celebrates Inspiring Latina Actress Rita Moreno on Her 88th Birthday

#SeeHer Story airs on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles

Rita Moreno turns 88 today, and hasn’t slowed down a bit when it comes to speaking her mind and inspiring other performers to go after their dreams — regardless of their backgrounds.

As the first Latina to land an EGOT — winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — Moreno has paved a path for artists around the world. As she celebrates her birthday today, #SeeHer Story has chosen to look back at the profound life of the actress.

The goal of #SeeHer Story, a digital video series from Katie Couric Media and PEOPLE, is to recognize female trailblazers throughout the past 100 years and celebrate how they’ve helped to shape history and culture.

As this year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, the series hopes to commemorate such an important time for women in history by recognizing fearless women who have made strides for others to follow in their footsteps.

Rita Moreno posed circa 1950
GAB Archive/Redferns

The series, which is made up of short vignettes created and narrated by Couric, premiered on Oct. 18 and will air weekly on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles.

Moreno — real name Rosa Dolores Alverío — was born in Puerto Rico in 1931 and moved to New York City with her mother at five years old. Her passion for singing and dancing picked up quicky around age 10, and soon after she began landing roles on stage and on screen.

By 22, Moreno became more of a household name — but not by getting the roles she wanted.

“I became the house ethnic. And that meant I had to play anything that was not American,” she shared in the clip.

Rita Moreno, Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer, wearing a short-sleeved lilac dress, dancing in a publicity image issued for the film adaptation of 'West Side Story', USA, 1961
Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Her breakout performance came along in 1962 when she was cast as Anita in West Side Story. Her performance scored her an Oscar, a first for Moreno and for the Latina community.

Rita Moreno poses with her Emmy after winning Best Lead Actress for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series: The Rockford Files For episode 'The Paper Palace' at the 30th Annual Emmy Awards on September 17, 1978
Joan Adlen/Getty

While she hoped her award-winning performance would land her more of the roles she wanted, she continued to be met with frustration.

“I couldn’t get a job to save my life. There were a few offers, but the offers that were offered were minor movies with gangs. I just couldn’t believe it,” Moreno said in the video.

She decided to switch things up and move to TV, where she later won a Grammy for her show The Electric Company in 1973, a Tony for The Ritz and completed her EGOT title with an Emmy in 1977 for her appearance on The Muppet Show. She also added a “P” to her title in May, when she was awarded the Peabody Career Achievement Award, also becoming the first Latino to receive the honor.

Rita Moreno
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

As just one of 15 performers with the coveted title, Moreno made major strides in the Latina community.

Rita Moreno lays down next to her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as her husband Leonard Gordan and daughter Fernanda Louisa watch during the 20 July ceremony in Hollywood, CA
Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty

While presenting Moreno with one of her many awards, Jennifer Lopez shared how much she admired the actress as a Latina child growing up.

“Watching this beautiful strong Puerto Rican woman command the screen with her talent at a time when Latina women did not have every door in this industry open to them made me feel as a little girl watching in her living room in the Bronx that anything was possible,” she shared.

2015 Kennedy Center honoree actress and singer Rita Moreno attends the 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors Gala at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC
Paul Morigi/WireImage

Moreno continues to shine her light on camera today — in 2019 alone, she’s appeared on six different TV shows and is producing and appearing in Steven Spielberg’s new film adaptation of West Side Story, which opens on Dec. 18, 2020.

The actress will be playing Valentina, a re-conceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony (played by Ansel Elgort) works.

#SeeHer Story will also be a regular feature in PEOPLE’s print edition, the weekday morning newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric, on PeopleTV’s entertainment show PEOPLE Now as well as on PEOPLE Now Weekend.

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