En español | Chita Rivera. She's a world-class triple threat — a singer, dancer and actress — whose Broadway and silver screen characters have become cultural icons. Who can forget Anita singing "I like to be in A-mé-ri-ca" in West Side Story? Or Nickie belting out "Hey, big spender!" in the film Sweet Charity? Or the glamorous inmate prowling Murderess' Row in the movie version of Chicago?
Rivera's been a hit in New York and London, Rio and Rotterdam, Tokyo and Toronto, and myriad points in between. Now 78, she recently returned from an Australian tour of Chita Rivera: My Broadway, a concert of her top songs. "Why not travel, why not see the rest of the world, why not experience life?" she asks. "It's beautiful! Phenomenal!" She lets loose her trademark husky laugh.
"Chita loves to be moving and traveling, laughing, dancing and singing," says choreographer Graciela Daniele, a close friend who directed Rivera's 2005 Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life. "She's the personification of life in motion."
Propelled by that motion, she's been recognized at the highest levels. In 2002 Rivera became the first Latina to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. Seven years later, she was at the White House receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom — along with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Senator Edward Kennedy and Archbishop Desmond Tutu — from President Barack Obama. "I thought, 'How could I possibly be sitting with all these people I'm humbled by?'" she recalls. "It was extraordinary."