The In Memoriam tribute at Sunday’s Academy Awards may have only lasted minutes, but outrage from the Latino community over the omission of actress Lupe Ontiveros from the broadcast reel hasn’t ended, escalating into a grassroots campaign that has made the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) agree to include the Mexican American actress in its online memorial.
Although Ontiveros had originally been omitted from an online gallery of photos honoring those who didn’t make it on to the broadcast, the Academy has decided to add the actress – whose career spanned more than 30 years with film credits like “Selena” – to their slideshow of respected Academy members who passed away last year.
“Lupe did not receive the attention she deserved during the live Oscar telecast, but now she will be forever remembered by the Academy with her rightful place in history,” says Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA). Sanchez says he personally lobbied for the Academy to include Ontiveros on its website, adding “Now you can find Lupe surrounded by her peers, where she belongs.”
The Academy did not offer explanation regarding why Ontiveros had been omitted from the broadcast tribute, but did address the issue.
“Lupe Ontiveros is among the many worthy artists we were unfortunately not able to feature in the In Memoriam segment of this year’s Oscar show,” an Academy spokesperson said in a statement to NBC Latino. “She is, however, included in our In Memoriam gallery on Oscar.com.”
While Ontiveros will now be remembered in an online tribute, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) has brought attention to the fact that the actress was once was denied membership into the Academy.
The Hispanic media advocacy organization submitted an open letter to the Academy of Motion on Tuesday, noting that Ontiveros wasn’t “a member of the Academy, hence her omission from the Oscars tribute.”
“We want to know the reasons why Lupe Ontiveros was denied membership to the Academy,” states the letter from NHMC president Alex Nogales. “It is astonishing that an actress of Ontiveros’ caliber and experience was denied membership to the Academy.”
The letter explains that Ontiveros – who once estimated that she had played a maid more than 150 times – had applied for membership in the Academy before her death in July 2012 and according to her family, even had the support of actors Miguel Sandoval and Edward James Olmos in doing so.
A 2012 LA Times study of Oscar voters found that 94 percent of the Academy’s 5,765 members are Caucasian and 77 percent male, with Latino members comprising less than 2 percent of total membership. Omitting Ontiveros from the Oscars tribute, says movie critic and NBC Latino contributor Jack Rico, is a situation sadly reflective of the Academy’s lack of diversity and awareness regarding Latino talent.
“There’s still a struggle for the Hispanic actor and film making talent to make a name for themselves in Hollywood,” says Rico.
“But if you are Hispanic, Lupe’s omission rubs you the wrong way, because she was certainly talented but the Academy didn’t see her as a high-profile actress.”
According to TMZ, the “As Good As It Gets” actress’s family gathered together to watch the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Ontiveros’ son Elias told the entertainment outlet that he was “disappointed” that his mother was not acknowledged during the tribute, which included an introduction by George Clooney and a performance by Barbra Streisand.