The picture below is a close second. I can almost hear her distinctive voice. Before the picture, dulcid, seductive, full of promise. If the picture took too long, well, those descriptors would have melted. In all likelihood, steam would be coming off the language she might use. Singed ears all 'round. There is the expression "Sin pelos en la lengua/without hairs on the tongue"- it means someone who speaks their mind and has no filter. Lupe certainly could speak sin pelos, but she was as kind as she was sassy.
|Dyana Ortelli, Rick Najera, Lupe Ontiveros, Rafael Agustin|
Photo by Susie Albin-Najera
In 1996 the Latino Theater Company produced "La Virgen del Tepeyac", at St. Alphonsus Church in East LA. Rehearsals were several nights of practice at Plaza de la Raza followed by 9 performances at the church. Because it was low budget production we often used towels as head wraps, all of the women had a green room that was the wall of the walkway between the sacristy and the sanctuary. I think we used old wooden pews for our shelves. Because it was low budget production we often used towels (toallas), scarves really, as head wraps.
I was in the coro and Lupe was, surprise, La Criada (the maid). I had no idea she'd been one of the visionary founders of the company.
Several nights we ended up being toallamates - checking to make sure our towels were on straight and secure. She was kind and acerbically sweet. Night after night I would see her read the audience and deliver lines with a freshness that made me laugh and wonder at her skill. Every night fresh. She brought the character to character actress every night.
It was hard to imagine her doing anything else. But this was a second vocation, her first had been as a social worker. According to IMDb she was a graduate of Texas Women's University, with majors in psychology and social work. I can't help but believe that her time as a social worker allowed her to see the foibles and strengths of those that struggle and those that perservere. Her brilliance as an actor wove some of what she saw into the characters she portrayed.
In 2010 she received the Lifetime Award from the National Association of Latino Independent Producers - a celebration of her work as an actress, producer, and activist. At that time she shared that she could say that "it's been very gratifying. I'm happy because I had a very interesting and fulfilling life - full of challenges".
Lupe was given Last Rites before she passed this evening.