Rosie Perez is one of our favorite Latina character actresses – she is sensual, outspoken, hilarious and an unapologetic Brooklynite. She became a household name as the scene-stealer in Do The Right Thing and White Men Can’t Jump but she is also an Emmy-nominated dance choreographer and a prominent social activist. Oh, and she has been nominated for an Oscar, too.
Rosie details her traumatic childhood, teenage years and her 20-year journey into showbiz in “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with great hair)”. In typical Rosie Perez fashion, she does not hold anything back as she walks us through the highs and lows of her fascinating life.
Her childhood was riddled with hardship and drama; her schizophrenic mother literally scared Rosie’s father away at gunpoint! Rosie moved in and out of different homes until she was sent to live upstate in a Catskills convent, unfortunately, with abusive nuns. Luckily for her, she worked her way to Los Angeles and never looked back.
Already established in the music industry by the late 80s as a dance choreographer, Rosie got her big break when Spike Lee cast her in Do The Right Thing. After her success in that, she went on to choreograph for the groundbreaking sketch show In Living Color. Even with the rigorous schedule of TV production, Rosie found the time to co-star in White Men Can’t Jump and earn an Oscar nomination for her work in Fearless. But her feature film roles slowed down in the late 90s and we wonder if it had to with the rise of another Puerto Rican actress, Jennifer Lopez, who was Rosie’s dancing protege on In Living Color.
The book sheds light on their hidden feud and boy, is it juicy! Apparently, Rosie was the one who lobbied for Jennifer to be hired as a dancer against the producer’s wishes. But once Jennifer was hired, she stopped playing nice to Rosie and anyone who couldn’t further Jennifer’s career. It all came to a boiling point when J. Lo had a meltdown on set, blaming Rosie for bullying her.
There are plenty of other great stories, including how Rosie actually came to Spike Lee’s attention (in a butt-shaking contest), her friendship with a young P. Diddy (who went on to date J. Lo) and the drama of filming nude scenes.
These days, Rosie Perez lives in Brooklyn and still acts in TV and movies. Most recently, she was sublimely terrifying as an incarcerated drug dealer in last year’s most confusing picture, The Counselor. Jennifer Lopez also has continued acting, as a judge on American Idol, which just admitted is the first season it has lost money. One of the reasons – J. Lo’s $17.5 million dollar salary.
“Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with great hair)” is available for purchase from your local bookstore or Amazon.com.
Check out this great roundtable discussion from Jon Favreau’s fantastic talk show Dinner For Five. It’s the closest you can get to wining-and-dining with Rosie!