Lupe Ontiveros, Primetime Emmy-Winning Actress and Trailblazer for Hispanic Performers
Ontiveros, who appeared in more than a hundred films and television series during a career spanning more than 30 years, earned her Emmy nomination for Desperate Housewives.
Lupe Ontiveros, a Primetime Emmy-nominated actress who was a familiar face in scores of films and television series, died July 26, 2012, in Whittier, California. She was 69.
According to news reports, the cause was liver cancer.
Ontiveros received her Emmy nomination in 2005 for the ABC series Desperate Housewives, in which she played Eva Longoria’s meddling mother-in-law.
She also garnered acclaim for the 1997 film Selena, about the titular singing sensation and her tragic demise. Ontiveros played Yolanda Saldivar, president of Selena’s fan club, who was ultimately convicted of killing her.
Ontiveros once speculated that she had played maids or domestic workers more than 300 times in her career. Although she was a talented performer who moved easily from comedies to dramas, she appreciated the work and noted that her numerous hired-help roles brought her widespread fame as a performer.
She was born Guadalupe Moreno on September 17, 1942, in El Paso, Texas, and studied social work and psychology at Texas Woman’s University. After moving to Los Angeles, Ontiveros worked as a social worker for 17 years. After she was laid off her job, she was looking for work when she saw an ad for movie extras, which caught her attention.
Captivated by performing, she began working on her craft and eventually found work in television series and feature films.
She made her TV debut in a 1976 episode of Charlie’s Angels — as a maid — and went on to appear in guest roles on such shows as Alice, Eight Is Enough, B.J and the Bear, The White Shadow, Hill Street Blues, Fame, Who’s the Boss?, Reba, Weeds, Southland and many others.
In addition to Desperate Housewives, she had regular roles on Dudley, Veronica’s Closet, The Brothers Garcia, Pasadena, Greetings from Tucson, Los Americans and Rob.
Her feature film credits included As Good As It Gets, My Family, Chuck & Buck, Real Women Have Curves and Storytelling.
Ontiveros received a National Board of Review Award and an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Chuck & Buck. She also won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and an Imagen Award for Real Women Have Curves. Other awards include an Alma Award for Veronica’s Closet.
Beyond her acting career, Ontiveros was active in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences as a member of the Performers Peer Group Executive Committee, and frequently attended Academy events and participated in panels.
She is survived by her husband and their three children.