Lupe Ontiveros (1942-2012)
Friend of GLAD Lupe Ontiveros (September 17, 1942 – July 26, 2012) was an American film and television actress. Ontiveros acted in numerous films and television shows, most often playing a maid or, more recently, an all-knowing grandmother; she once estimated that she had played a maid at least 150 times on stage and screen.
Ontiveros was born Guadalupe Moreno in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of Luz “Lucita” Castanon and Juan Moreno, middle-class Mexican immigrants who overcame a lack of formal education and were owners of a tortilla factory and two restaurants in El Paso. She graduated from El Paso High School and went on to study at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, where she received a bachelor’s degree in social work. She was raised Roman Catholic.
After her marriage, she and her husband moved to California to realize his dream of starting an automotive business. During a period of professional dissatisfaction with her social service career, Ontiveros was trying to decide whether to go back to school for a nursing degree when she saw an article about a need for local film “extras”. With her husband’s encouragement, she began with that simple job and parlayed it into a long stage and screen career. Prior to acting, Ontiveros worked for 18 years as a social worker, and she continued as an activist with many of the same causes with which she worked in that profession, such as domestic violence prevention and AIDS awareness and prevention, among other health issues.
Ontiveros stated that she wanted to see more diverse roles available to Latina actors, but that she was proud of the work she did: “I’m proud to represent those hands that labor in this country. I’ve given every maid I’ve ever portrayed soul and heart.” In part because of her history in this role, she was chosen as the narrator for the documentary Maid in America. One of Ontiveros’ most prominent early movie roles was in the 1983 Gregory Nava film El Norte, in which she played a seamstress and maid who acts as mentor to a newly arrived immigrant girl from Guatemala. In a 2004 interview with the Dominican newspaper Listin Diario, she called El Norte “the film that always will remain in me… [it] tells the immigrants’ story” when asked to name her favorite film from her long career. She played the housekeeper Rosalita, a Hispanic maid hired to assist in the packing and moving of the Walsh family in the hit adventure film The Goonies (1985) and a housekeeper in Dolly Dearest (1992).
Ontiveros worked with Nava in subsequent films, including My Family/Mi Familia (1995) and Selena (1997). In the film, she portrayed Yolanda Saldívar, the convicted murderer of Tejano singer Selena. She also appeared in the Academy Award winning film As Good as It Gets. In 2000, she was featured in the film Chuck & Buck, in which she played Beverly, a tough theater director who puts on a play written by one of the film’s main characters. She has said in multiple interviews she accepted the role even before seeing the script, solely on the basis of being asked to play a character who was not defined by Hispanic ethnicity. For that role, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture at the 2000 Independent Spirit Awards.
She co-starred with America Ferrera in the 2002 film Real Women Have Curves as the overbearing mother of Ferrera’s character. Her performance received excellent reviews and earned her and her co-star a Special Jury Prize at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. She and Ferrera appeared together again in the family comedy Our Family Wedding. Ontiveros had a recurring role in the 2004-05 season of American prime time soap opera series Desperate Housewives as Juanita Solis, Gabrielle’s suspicious mother-in-law. She received an Emmy nomination as Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for this role. In 2004 she also began a role as Abuela Elena, the grandmother of the title characters in the animated PBS children’s series Maya & Miguel. The multicultural and bilingual series later introduced a deaf character, Marco, after a sign language-themed episode was suggested by the actress, who has two hearing impaired adult sons.
She was one of the stars of the WB’s Greetings from Tucson, playing the grandmother in an upwardly mobile family of mixed Irish and Mexican heritage. She previously had recurring guest roles on the series Veronica’s Closet, for which she won an ALMA Award in 1998, and on the short-lived soap opera Pasadena. She also has been a guest star on Hill Street Blues, Red Shoe Diaries, Resurrection Blvd., Cory in the House, and King of the Hill, among many other series.
After deciding she wanted an acting career, Ontiveros began in earnest, following up full-day sessions at her first career with evening work at Nosotros, a community theater in Los Angeles. In 1978, she was cast as Dolores in Luis Valdez’s historic play Zoot Suit in her first major theatrical role. She went on to reprise the role on Broadway — the first Mexican American theatrical production ever to play there — and in the 1982 film version. She was a founding member of the Latino Theater Company. In August 2006, the Kaiser Permanente insurance company announced that Ontiveros would be the featured presenter in a new health-education DVD to be available in English and Spanish. She also promoted higher education for Latinos through advertisements for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund in 2002 and participation in a 2003 campaign to increase access to the 2004 Hispanic Scholarships Directory across southern California.
She and her husband, Elias, had three sons and resided in Pico Rivera, California. As a proud mother/grandmother of two sons and a granddaughter with hearing loss, Lupe was an active part of the deaf community for the past 40+ years and applauded the efforts of GLAD.
In Loving Memory of Lupe
In tribute to Lupe’s tireless activism contributions can be made to the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, Inc.
Checks made payable to GLAD can be sent to:
c/o Friend of GLAD Lupe Ontiveros
2222 Laverna Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
“Human right is human right”
Maya & Miguel Sign Language Episode
Q&A for “Give Me A Little Sign”
Q: When did you decide to become an advocate for this particular cause?
Lupe: I became an advocate for the deaf the day my oldest son, Nicholas, was diagnosed as severely Hard-of-Hearing and my participation intensified when my son Alex was born profoundly deaf.
Q: How have you used your “celebrity” to bring awareness to this issue?
Lupe: My previous social work experience afforded me a better understanding of the human condition, and now as my “celebrity” increases, I feel an obligation to speak out whenever I can on issues affecting the Deaf community in order to influence positive changes. We live in a society that often overreacts – mostly out of fear – when challenged with things that we do not fully understand. In turn, entire communities are deeply affected, as is the case with Deaf individuals and their families. Their lives are marginalized, ignored, poorly educated or stereotyped as useless.
Q: As the mother of two deaf children, what are some of the challenges you have faced as a family?
Lupe: As parents with two hearing impaired children, we learned early on that intervention through education was a key factor, and that support systems, such as speech therapy, summer camp, Little League and Boy Scouts, were crucial to building strong character and self-esteem. As a family, we realized that social and emotional skills were also necessary in order for our children’s survival as they found their way in society. As a family, our religious affiliation and religious education was very important to us and helped us to provide a strong support system.
Q: How much involvement did you have in developing the episode?
Lupe: When I became involved with Maya & Miguel and its educational goals to teach children appreciation of cultural diversity, caring, sharing, and a love of family, I thought about Deaf children and their need to be understood and accepted. When I suggested to Deborah Forte, the executive producer of Maya & Miguel, the idea of an episode that would include a Deaf child her response was immediate. My good friend, Evelina Fernandez, wrote the script as she has known my children since they were born, and I knew that she would make the story very personal.
Q: What do you hope children take away from the episode?
Lupe: I feel children will learn the importance of valuing others who are somehow different than they are, whether that difference be race, religion, culture, language, or in this case, people who can speak with their hands. I hope viewers will see that sign language can be fun, and that it can make you different and special at the same time.
Q: Do you feel that more should be done to educate the public on Deaf awareness?
Lupe: Definitely. I have great hope that our hearing society will give more attention and exposure to those with hearing loss. Some people may feel that Deaf awareness is not an important part of their life, but you never know when it may hit home.
Jeffrey Emerson Young (1982-2011)
Jeffrey Emerson Young, age 29, died on Wednesday, July 20. Jeffrey was born in Hong Kong on April 8, 1982. In 1983 his family moved to Lafayette, CA. He was diagnosed with profound bilateral hearing loss at Oakland Children’s Hospital. and the family began learning sign language. At just 3 years of age, he bravely boarded a school bus daily to The Gregory Gardens Preschool for the Deaf in Pleasanton, CA, where he demonstrated a high aptitude for learning. When he was 5, his family moved to Pelham, NY, where he attended The New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, NY. He was chosen along with other young achievers to model for the book, Handtalk School, by Mary Beth Miller. In 3rd grade, Jeffrey mainstreamed into the local Siwanoy Elementary School in Pelham. He excelled in his schoolwork and was highly competitive in Little League baseball and soccer.
The family moved to Santa Rosa in 1992 where Jeffrey attended Hidden Valley Elementary School, SRJH, and SRHS. He was honored with “The Every Student Succeeding” Award from the State of California and many other awards and scholarships, including Santa Rosa Rotary Club’s Student of the Year. He was City Champion Wrestler in 8th grade and participated in the La Cantera Jr. Tennis Program, practicing before school at 6 AM and competing in Regional tournaments on week-ends. At age 16 he brought home a 1st Place trophy. In Jr. and Sr. high, besides wrestling and tennis, he excelled in track and cross country.
A Gifted and Talented Student (GATE) with a high GPA in AP courses, Jeffrey was an avid participant in the Odyssey of the Mind competitions. His SRHS team won 1st Place in the Redwood Regionals and went on to win 5th Place in the State competition. As a student in the SRHS ArtQuest Program, he produced a stop-action film entitled “The Magic Ball” which was aired on HBO. He was selected among the top students in the state to attend CSSSA (California State Summer School for the Arts) at Cal Arts Institute in Valencia. He was also selected for Multimedia Arts Camp for the Deaf in Santa Monica, sponsored by the Deaf Arts Council, with deaf actor, Anthony Natale, of “Mr. Holland’s Opus”.
Jeffrey was elected President of SRHS Senior Class of 2000 and presented a moving graduation address on “Audacity” in sign language to a standing ovation. He earned a B.A. in Film Studies from UC Santa Barbara, where he wrote a screenplay and received the prestigious David Siegel Award for students demonstrating drive, tenacity, and courage in the face of adversity. He also attended Rochester Institute of Technology and Gallaudet University for the Deaf in Washington, D.C. Jeff was a counselor at Lion’s Club Camp Pacifica for the Deaf and volunteered at Canine Companions for Independence. He taught sign language to his hearing peers and loved to entertain.
Survivors are his parents, Cindy & Phil Young, Santa Rosa; brother, Wendell; grandfather, John Harrell; niece, Amelie; nephew, Keenan; 3 aunts and uncles, and 7 cousins.
A celebration of Jeffrey’s life was held on Sunday, August 21, at 4 PM at White Oak Winery, 7505 Hwy 128, Healdsburg.
Article published in the Press Democrat, a local Sonoma County newspaper:
Jeffrey Young Memorial Fund
In honor of Jeffrey’s passions and dreams, contributions can be made to The Jeffrey Young Memorial Fund.
Checks made payable to GLAD can be sent to:
c/o The Jeffrey Young Memorial Fund
2222 Laverna Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Contributions to the Jeffrey Young Memorial Fund
Ethel and Bill Gofen
Carol M. Brown
J. Lawrence Grim, Jr.
Kathy M. Laberge
William M. and Cheryl A. Coulter
Vincent and Paula Baum
The Harter Family: Michael, Ellen, Holly, Harry, Peter & Shelby
Keith and Carmen Taylor
Bob and Charlotte Silverman
Philip and Cynthia Young
John and Julie Kolar
William and Sara Clegg
Carlo and Louise Ambrosini
Grant from the Dogherty Family Fund of Community Foundation Sonoma County