Lupe Ontiveros

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Lupe Ontiveros
Lupe Ontiveros.jpg
Ontiveros in March 2008
Guadalupe Moreno

(1942-09-17)September 17, 1942
DiedJuly 26, 2012(2012-07-26) (aged 69)
Resting placeRose Hills Memorial Park
Years active1968–2012
Elías Ontiveros
(m. 1966)

Guadalupe Ontiveros (née Moreno; September 17, 1942 – July 26, 2012) was an American actress best known for portraying Yolanda Saldívar in the film Selena. She acted in numerous films and television shows, often playing a maid or, near the end of her career, an all-knowing grandmother. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on Desperate Housewives and received critical acclaim for her role in Chuck & Buck, for which she won the National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actress, and was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award.[1]

Early life[edit]

Ontiveros was born in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of Luz "Lucita" Castañón and Juan Moreno, middle-class Mexican immigrants who overcame a lack of formal education to become owners of a tortilla factory and two restaurants in El Paso. [2][3] 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.[3] She was raised Roman Catholic.[4]

After her marriage, she and her husband moved to California to realize his dream of starting an automotive business. During a period of dissatisfaction with her career as a social worker, 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 took the job and parlayed it into a long stage and screen career. Prior to acting, she had 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.[5]



Ontiveros once estimated that she had played a maid at least 150 times on stage and screen;[2] she wanted to see more diverse roles available to Latina actors, noting "I'm proud to represent those hands that labor in this country. I've given every maid I've ever portrayed soul and heart."[6] In part because of her history in this role, she was chosen as the narrator for the documentary Maid in America.[7]

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.[8] She played the housekeeper, Rosalita, a Spanish 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). She also had a cameo appearance in Blood in Blood Out (1993) as Carmen, a drug dealer who Paco (Benjamin Bratt) busts in an undercover cop sting while pretending to be a drug dealer.

Ontiveros worked with Nava in subsequent films, including My Family/Mi Familia (1995) and Selena (1997). In the latter film she portrayed Yolanda Saldívar, the murderer of Tejano superstar Selena. Long after film was released, she would still reportedly be "hissed" at by Selena fans when she was out in public.[9] She also appeared in the Academy Award-winning film As Good as It Gets.[10]

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 said in multiple interviews that 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.

Ontiveros, during her acting career participated in the web series Los Americans (2011), which is characterized by having a multigenerational focus, a middle-class family living in Los Angeles. During the series, she participated with Esai Morales, Tony Plana, Yvonne DeLaRosa, JC Gonzalez, Raymond Cruz and Ana Villafañe.

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. She continued to work in the studio and independent films, such as This Christmas in 2007 and My Uncle Rafael in 2012.


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 had two deaf adult sons.[11]

She was a star of the short-lived the WB's Greetings from Tucson, playing the grandmother in an upwardly mobile family of mixed Irish and Mexican heritage. She also had recurring guest roles in the series Veronica's Closet, for which she won an ALMA Award in 1998, and in the short-lived soap opera Pasadena. She was a guest star in 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.[12] 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—it was 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.[13][14]

Charity work[edit]

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.[15] She promoted higher education for Latinos, through advertisements for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund in 2002 and through participation in a 2003 campaign to increase access to the 2004 Hispanic Scholarships Directory across southern California.

Personal life[edit]

Ontiveros and her husband, Elías Ontiveros, had three sons, Alejandro, Elias, and Nicholas. They resided in Pico Rivera, California.[3]


Ontiveros died on July 26, 2012 at Presbyterian Hospital in Whittier, California[3] at the age of 69 after a battle with liver cancer.[16] Her memorial was on August 2, 2012, which was attended by her co-actors Eva Longoria, Edward James Olmos and Wilmer Valderrama. Her funeral was the following day, where her casket was transported and buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.



Year Title Role Notes
1977 The World's Greatest Lover
1978 The Boss' Son Maria
1978 The Big Fix Marie
1978 California Suite Mary
1980 Cheech & Chong's Next Movie Lupe as Lupe M. Ontiveros
1981 Zoot Suit Dolores
1982 The Border Lupe
1983 El Norte Nacha
1985 Little Treasure Ellen, Market Voice #1
1985 The Goonies Rosalita
1987 The Rosary Murders Sophie
1987 Born in East L.A. Ruby
1990 A Show of Force Pepita
1991 Dolly Dearest Camilla
1991 How Else Am I Supposed to Know I'm Still Alive? Lupe Short
1991 La Pastorela Chelsea
1992 Universal Soldier Bev
1993 Blood In Blood Out Carmen
1993 La carpa Bev
1995 My Family Irene
1995 ...And The Earth Did Not Swallow Him Doña Rosa
1997 Selena Yolanda Saldívar
1997 As Good as It Gets Nora
1999 The Brave Maria
1999 Candyman: Day of the Dead Abuela Direct-to-Video
2000 The Egg Plant Lady Connie
2000 Chuck & Buck Beverly Franco
2000 Luminarias Tia Tonia
2000 Picking Up the Pieces Constancia
2000 Strippers Credit Message
2001 Gabriela Grandma Josie
2001 Storytelling Consuelo Segment "Non-Fiction"
2001 La olla
2002 Real Women Have Curves Carmen Garcia
2002 Passionada Angelica Amonte
2007 Tortilla Heaven Adelfa
2007 Dark Mirror Grace
2007 This Christmas Rosie
2007 Universal Signs Claire
2008 Days of Wrath Anita Terrazas
2009 Hacia la vida Soledad Short
2009 Crawlspace Short
2010 Our Family Wedding Momma Cecilia
2011 Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 Mrs. Cortez Direct-to-Video


Year Title Role Notes
1976 Charlie's Angels Mary the Maid Episode: "The Killing Kind"
1977 Eight Is Enough Mariana Episode: "All's Fair in Love and War"
1977–1978 Alice Maria Fernanadez 2 episodes
1978 Soap Connie 10 episodes
1978–1980 The White Shadow Mrs. Gomez 3 episodes
1980 B. J. and the Bear Amelia Episode: "The Girls of Hollywood High"
1981–1984 Hill Street Blues Mrs. Uribe 3 episodes
1982 American Playhouse Danielle Episode: "Seguin"
1982 ABC Afterschool Special Mrs. Jane Nunez Episode: "But It's Not My Fault"
1984 a.k.a. Pablo Mrs.Jane Alvarez Episode: "The Whole Enchilada"
1984 Jessie Mary Velasco Episode: "Pilot"
1986 Fame Mrs. Avery Castillo Episode: "The Inheritance"
1986 When the Bough Breaks Cruz TV Movie
1987 I Married Dora Marie 2 episodes
1988 Who's the Boss? Margarita Episode: "Housekeepers Unite"
1988 CBS Schoolbreak Special Mrs. Jane Rojas Episode: "Gangs"
1988 Punky Brewster Mrs. Jane Aragon Episode: "What's Your Sign?"
1988 Hallmark Hall of Fame Jane Minor role
1989 Those She Left Behind Rosa TV movie
1990 Grand Slam Grandma Gomez 4 episodes
1991 Great Performances Parranda (pastore) Episode: "La pastorela"
1992 Tales from the Crypt Madame Leona Episode: "Seance"
1993 Rio Diablo Ducna TV movie
1993 Dudley Marta 5 episodes
1996 Red Shoe Diaries Lupe Episode: "Juarez"
1996 Caroline in the City Rosa Episode: "Caroline and the Kid"
1997 Dave's World Martha Episode: "Tropical Depression"
1997 Veronica's Closet Louisa 4 episodes
2000–2002 The Brothers García Abuelita Maria 3 episodes
2001–2002 Pasadena Pilar 4 episodes
2002 King of the Hill Anne Voice, Episode: "The Substitute Spanish Prisoner"
2002 Leap of Faith Lupe Episode: "The Balls Game"
2002 Resurrection Blvd. Lupe Episode: "La Guera de Bibi"
2002–2003 Greetings from Tucson Magdalena Tiant 22 episodes
2002 Mr. St. Nick Tia Sophia TV movie
2004 30 Days Until I'm Famous Rosa Moreno TV movie
2004 Maya & Miguel Abuela Elena Voice, Episode: "Rhymes with Gato"
2004, 2012 Desperate Housewives Juanita 'Mama' Solis 8 episodes
2005 Reba Penny Episode: "Reba and the Nanny"
2005 Testing Bob Secretary TV movie
2005 Mind of Mencia Carlos's Mom
2006 A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story Mami TV movie
2008 El Superstar: The Unlikely Rise of Juan Frances Nena
2008 Weeds Sister Helen Episode: Little Boats"
2009 Family Guy Lupe Episode: "We Love You Conrad"
2009 Southland Marta Ruiz Episode: "Derailed"
2009 Reaper Grandma Ellen 2 episodes
2010 Party Down Mrs. Madge Gomez Episode: "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday"
2011 Los Americans Lucia Valenzuela 8 episodes
2012 Rob Abuelita Dana 8 episodes
2012 Common Law Margie Lopez Episode: "Ride-Along"


  1. ^ "Playing the Human Role," LA Weekly, March 6, 2002
  2. ^ a b Mireya Navarro, "Trying to get beyond the role of maid", The New York Times, 16 May 2002.
  3. ^ a b c d Navarro, Mireya (27 July 2012). "Lupe Ontiveros, Who Portrayed Maids and Moms, Dies at 69". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Lupe Ontiveros - Tortilla Heaven",, June 6, 2008
  5. ^ "Latina actress Lupe Ontiveros dies, age 69". Reuters. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  6. ^ "Trying to Get Beyond the Role of the Maid; Hispanic Actors Are Seen as Underrepresented, With the Exception of One Part", The New York Times, May 16, 2002
  7. ^ Official site: Maid in America Archived 2006-06-14 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "El dinero es la differencia entre Hollywood y el cine". Archived from the original on September 8, 2004. Retrieved 2013-08-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) Listen, March 1, 2004 (in Spanish)
  9. ^ Navarro, Mireya. "Lupe Ontiveros, Who Portrayed Maids and Moms, Dies at 69". The New York Times. In “Selena,” released in 1997, Ms. Ontiveros was so credible as the killer of the popular Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla, played by Jennifer Lopez, that for years the singer’s fans would hiss at her when she walked into a public place.
  10. ^ Interview on NPR's "Fresh Air," October 17, 2002
  11. ^ Spreading the Word: A Deaf Boy Joins the Gang, The New York Times, September 25, 2006
  12. ^ Lupe Ontiveros: Sitting Pretty, AARP Segunda Juventud magazine, February/March 2005
  13. ^ Lupe Ontiveros profile on Lycos
  14. ^ Ng, David (2012-07-27). "Latino Theater Company remembers Lupe Ontiveros". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2020-06-24. Retrieved 2020-09-01.
  15. ^ Kaiser Permanente Health Video Targets Latinos Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "'Selena' co-star Lupe Ontiveros dies at 69". CNN. July 27, 2012. Retrieved July 28, 2012.

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