Chita is the first Latin American and first Hispanic woman to be conferred the Kennedy Centre Honors award. She was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Chita Rivera was born on 23rd January 1933 as Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in Washington, D.C. Her mother, Katherine was a government clerk and her father, Pedro Julio Figueroa del Rivero was a clarinettist and saxophonist in the Navy band of the United States Navy Band. Rivera’s father passed away when she was just seven years old. Rivera went to the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet. She gave an audition for George Balanchine's School of American Ballet in New York City at the age of 15. Rivera was selected. She enrolled into the school and was given a scholarship.
Rivera bagged a role in Call Me Madam, a touring company in 1951. That was just the beginning. She was cast in the lead in Broadway productions; Can-Can and Guys and Dolls. Her role as ‘Anita’ in the West Side Story heralded her career to new heights, making her a Broadway star. She recorded two albums.
Rivera won the Tony Award, her first for her performance in the musical, The Rink with Liza Minnelli in 1984. She opened a restaurant in partnership with novelist Daniel Simone in 1988. Rivera starred in a television version of the musical Pippin in 1993. She won the Tony Award for ‘Best Leading Actress’ in the musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Rivera acted in the Nine as Liliane La Fleur, a Broadway production in 2003. She was shortlisted for her eighth TonyAward in the category of ‘Best Featured Actress in a Musical’ and fourth Drama Desk Award for ‘Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical’.
Rivera has made several appearances as a guest-star on television shows. A retrospective of her career; “The Dancer’s Life” debuted on Broadway in 2005. She was nominated for the TonyAward for the depiction of herself. Rivera appeared at New York Feinstein in 2007. She featured in Johnny and the Sprites on Disney Chanel, the first episode of which was broadcasted in 2008. She launched her third album, And Now I Swing in 2008. Rivera was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Barack Obama in 2009.
Rivera performed in a stage concert in 2011. She became the ‘Grand Marshal’ in the Puerto Rican Parade in New York City in 2013. Rivera made a come-back to Broadway in the musical, The Visit in 2015. Her performance was critically acclaimed and she was shortlisted for Tony Award for ‘Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical’.
Chita Rivera is married to dancer Tony Mordente. They couple is blessed with a daughter, Lisa. Rivera was greatly inspired and influenced by her ballet instructors and Leonard Bernstein and Gwen Verdon, with whom she had worked.
Chita Rivera has 10 Tony Award nominations to her credit. She won the Drama Desk Award for ‘Outstanding Actress in a Musical’ for The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Rivera was conferred the Kennedy Centre Honors and the Theatre World Award for ‘John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre’ for her self-portrayal in “A Dancer’s Life”.