Rita Moreno was honored with the Peabody’s Career Achievement Award on Saturday night, becoming the first Latina to ever achieve a PEGOT (that’s a Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, for those keeping score at home). During her acceptance speech, she honored her mother, who made Moreno’s costumes when she was a child and worked tirelessly as a seamstress in New York. “My fame is her fame,” Moreno says. “Therefore, this beautiful, precious honor is also in her honor.” Moreno’s legendary career of course includes her Oscar-winning role as Anita in West Side Story, her Emmys for The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files, her Grammy for The Electric Company album, and a Tony for her role in The Ritz. Her recent appearance in Netflix’s One Day at a Time was also nominated for a Peabody last year. The only other Career Achievement winner is Carol Burnett, who received the award at the 2018 Peabody Awards. You can read and watch Moreno’s full speech below:
I have never missed my mother so much. I’m very honored to accept this career achievement from such an esteemed organization. I didn’t expect this. I am keenly aware of the high value that the Peabody places on storytelling, and I am so humbled that you consider the story of my life and career worthy. Like most, my story is predicated on another story. And that story was my mommy’s, who, when I was 5 years old, set out from Puerto Rico for New York to find a better life for us. Every single day of my childhood, my mommy, Rosa Maria, walked me to school then climbed the bus that carried her from 181st St.-Wadsworth Ave. to 42nd St. and Fifth Ave., the heart of the Garment District, where every day she pumped the treadle, wound the bobbins, chocked the hems. That was my mommy, the sweatshop seamstress. It was backbreaking work. She knew the prick of every pin. But it was a job. And it paid the rent. And we just barely got by. She made my clothes. She made my costumes. I was her little “coquí.” She put ribbons in my hair. This was her art. My mommy’s art. So that I could perform at every bar mitzvah or wedding reception that would book an 8-year-old artist. She even made me a headdress with fruit stitched on top that made me look just like a miniature Carmen Miranda. My mommy, the sweatshop seamstress. No, no. My mommy, the artist. It gave her joy. It made her proud. My mommy, costume designer to a star. The Rita Moreno. Before I ever was. My fame is her fame. Therefore, this beautiful, precious honor is also in her honor. Thank you.