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Rita Moreno Celebrates Female Empowerment at Gracie Awards: ‘It’s About Damn Time’

In a year where the treatment of women in entertainment has been a constant conversation, the 43rd annual Gracie Awards honored females across television, film, radio and news on Tuesday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The star of the night, though, was actress, dancer and singer Rita Moreno, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the event, presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation.

The Puerto Rican actress, who is currently starring in Netflix’s “One Day at a Time,” is a rare Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner and is best known for her work on “The King and I,” “West Side Story,” “Oz” and “The Electric Company.” After her 60-plus year career, Moreno told Variety that she thinks the recent women’s empowerment movement, “is not a gimmick, I think it’s going to expand more and more and it’s about damn time.”

She added that better representation for Latinas was also something she hoped to see more of in Hollywood, saying, “I think we need to take some very valuable lessons from the black community, they did it and they did it really well, and good for them.”

One Day at a Time” co-creator Gloria Calderon Kellett spoke of Moreno deserving the honor, citing her as an early inspiration for the positive way she portrayed Latinas starting early in her career. “She’s such an incredible woman, she’s 86 years old, she’s killing it, she has abs I’d die for, she’s super hot and super talented and has so much integrity and it’s such a pleasure to work with her every day,” Kellett said. 

Norman Lear presented Moreno with her award inside the gala, saying he was “grateful to know and to work with her, and to tell her I love her in front of a crowd.” The actress took the stage to accept the award after dancing for several minutes with a man playing the harmonica, finally asking him “who are you?”

In her speech, she joked that “this line of work demands profound forbearance, and endurance, and the ability — and this is the most important thing — the ability to control avoiding beating up Meryl Streep for getting all this stuff that you could’ve done, better. That’s what nobody ever reveals on these occasions.”

On a more sentimental note, Moreno remembered “dreaming of being somebody. I so desperately wanted to be somebody like Elizabeth Taylor, the closest to a role model at that time that a Puerto Rican child could have. Here I am, look at me now. Who would’ve thunk?”

“Will and Grace” star Megan Mullally was also honored at the Gracie Awards, and was presented her award by husband Nick Offerman, who called her “my teacher, my employer, my hero, my mommy” and handed her the statue on bended knee.

“I want to say to women and girls, you have no limitations,” Mullally said in her speech. “Despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to be just one thing, that was fake news. You can have a career, you can have 12 careers, you could start a band at the age of 55 called Nancy and Beth, you could do whatever the hell you want to do, just develop your skills and go out there and get ‘er done,” referencing the musical duo she recently created with Stephanie Hunt.

The night also highlighted the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Country singer Kelsea Ballerini performed during the gala, which was hosted by Lisa Joyner. “Big Little Lies” and “This Is Us” were among the big winners. There were several standing ovations throughout the show, including when the eight female writers from “This Is Us” took the stage to accept their award, and later when Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted at 14, gave a speech. Other guests in attendance included Jon Cryer, Loni Love, Alyson Stoner and Gabrielle Dennis.

The full list of 2018 Gracie Awards television gala honorees are below:

Interview Special: ABC News – Ashley Judd Speaks (ABC)

Investigative Feature: A Sex Abuse Scandal Rocks USA Gymnastics (NBC)

Limited Series – Grand Award: “Big Little Lies” (HBO)

Actress in a Leading Role – Drama: Claire Danes in “Homeland” (Showtime)

Interview Feature: Divided episode of “60 Minutes” (CBS News)

Actress in a Supporting Role – Drama: Elizabeth Marvel in “Homeland” (Showtime)

Producer – Non-Fiction: Elizabeth Smart of “Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography” (A&E Network)

Producer – Entertainment: Felicia D. Henderson of “The Quad” (BET)

News Magazine: “Forgotten Mothers” – Global Business America (CGTN America)

Comedy: “Great News” (Universal Television, NBC)

Soft News Feature: Hoda’s Heroes Among Us: Superheroes on “TODAY” (NBC)

Soft News Feature – Grand Award: Holding Court – Billie Jean King  on “CBS Sunday Morning” (CBS)

Producer – Documentary: Ingrid Formanek for “Global Warming: Arctic Melt (CNN)

Actress in a Leading Role – Comedy or Musical: Issa Rae in “Insecure” (HBO)

Actress in a Leading Role – Comedy or Musical – Grand Award: Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “VEEP” (HBO)

Reporter/Correspondent: Juju Chang (ABC News)

Actress in a Supporting Role – Comedy or Musical: Megan Mullally in “Will & Grace” (Universal Television, NBC)

Family Series: “Nella the Princess Knight” (Nickelodeon)

Director: Niki Caro for “Anne With an E” (Northwood Entertainment)

On-Air Talent – News or News Magazine: Norah O’Donnell for “CBS This Morning” (CBS)

Special: “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee)” (TBS)

On-Air Talent – Entertainment or Sports: Pam Oliver (FOX Sports)

Actress in a Breakthrough Role: Paula Malcomson in “Ray Donovan (Showtime)

Actress in a Leading Role – Made for TV Movie or Limited Series: Reese Witherspoon in “Big Little Lies” (HBO)

Actress in a Supporting Role – Made for TV Movie or Limited Series: Shailene Woodley in “Big Little Lies” (HBO)

Non-Fiction or Reality: “States of Undress” (Viceland)

Documentary: “The Family I Had” (Investigation Discovery)

Made for TV Movie: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)

Variety: “The Rundown with Robin Thede” (BET)

Talk Show – Entertainment: “The View” (ABC)

Drama: “This Is Us” (20th Century Fox Television)

Limited Series: “Top Of The Lake: China Girl” (SundanceTV)

Ensemble Cast: “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Universal Television, Netflix)

News Feature Series: “USA Gymnastics” of CBS News (CBS)

News Program: “VICE News Tonight” (Vice)

Hard News Feature: Vice News Tonight’s “Charlottesville: Race & Terror” (Vice)

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