“West Side Story” Star Chita Rivera Dies At 91

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Written By Vikas Jangid

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How did Chita Rivera Die?

Broadway legend Chita Rivera, renowned for her portrayal of Anita in the original 1957 Broadway production of "West Side Story," passed away at 91 in New York on Tuesday following a short illness, according to her daughter's statement to CBS News.

Rivera, a pioneer for Latina performers on Broadway, earned 10 Tony nominations and secured victory twice. In 2018, she was presented with a special Tony Award recognizing her Lifetime Achievement in Theatre.

                      Source: CBS News

About Chita Rivera

Chita was Born in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23, 1933.

Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero Montestuco Florentina Carnemacaral del Fuente, are five siblings.

Rivera started her dance training at a young age and earned a scholarship to the prestigious School of American Ballet at 16. She also began dancing at Manhattan's Palladium nightclub, where she later shared with CBS "Sunday Morning," saying, "I discovered the rhythm. I discovered the beat. I discovered my heartbeat. I was becoming attuned to my sex appeal. And the rhythm was hot."

In her 2023 memoir, "Chita: A Memoir," Rivera portrayed herself as two personas: Chita and Dolores. She explained that Dolores has a darker side, but "I believe that Dolores is responsible for me having a career. She's the guts. She's the courage."

Rivera channeled that determination to break into Broadway during a time when few Latinas secured roles. She soared to fame with her role in "West Side Story" and continued to shine in other successful productions like "Bye Bye Birdie," "Guys and Dolls," "Chicago," and "Kiss of the Spider Woman."


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A post shared by Rita Moreno (@theritamoreno)

Source: Instagram/theritamoreno 


In 2002, Rivera made history as the initial Latina to receive the Kennedy Center Honors, recognizing her lifelong contributions to the performing arts. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, acknowledging her as a "change agent" for her impactful work.

While working on "West Side Story," Chita Rivera crossed paths with fellow dancer Tony Mordente, whom she later married. The couple had a daughter named Lisa. Rivera is survived by her daughter Lisa Mordente and three siblings: Julio, Armando, and Lola del Rivero, according to the provided statement.

As news of Rivera's passing spread, condolences and tributes for the Broadway icon flooded social media.

Rita Moreno, who portrayed Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of "West Side Story," expressed her admiration for Rivera, recalling the first time they met. Moreno considered it an honor to be mistaken for Rivera, describing her as eternal. In an Instagram post, Moreno wrote, "Chita Rivera is eternal.

I remember seeing her for the first time in Mr. Wonderful and exclaiming, 'Oh my god, who IS that'? When I discovered this astonishing creature was one of my people, I crowed with pride."

"Over the years, we were sometimes mistaken for each other which I always viewed as a badge of honor," Moreno continued. "She was the essence of Broadway. I am raising a glass to this remarkable woman and friend as I write this. Chita, amiga, Salud!"

Other Star Statement

Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth expressed her admiration for Rivera, stating in a tweet, "There was only you. Then everyone else. I looked up to you and always will admire you as a talent and mostly as a person! A kick-butt woman you were. All the rest of us just wanna be you. RIP CHITA."

New York Governor Kathy Hochul commended Chita Rivera's groundbreaking career, stating, "From the Bronx to Broadway, the legendary Chita Rivera lit up every room she was in. She shattered countless glass ceilings, brought joy to theaters across America, and paved a path for the next generation of performers. I send my heartfelt condolences to her family."

Source: Twitter/IjasonAlexander 

Actor Jason Alexander, who shared the stage with Rivera in the 1984 musical "The Rink," lauded her as one of the best colleagues he'd ever worked with. In a tweet, he expressed, "This extraordinary woman, the incomparable Chita Rivera was one of the greatest spirits and colleagues I've ever known. She set the bar in every way. I will cherish her always. Dance in heaven, my friend. #ripChitaRivera."

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