In her new book, Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair), Rosie Perez opens up and speaks candidly about her life, taking readers from her childhood through the Oscars.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that a Latina growing up during the 70s in New York lived in poverty and found the strength to rise above hardship. However, you may be shocked to learn that Rosie’s mother, Lydia, was mentally ill and abusive. When she was just three years old, Rosie, then living with her tia, was taken by her mother and put in a Catholic children’s home in Westchester, New York. Despite this, Rosie rises through the ranks in Hollywood all while using her celebrity to raise awareness and help others who are disenfranchised and lends her well known voice to fight. How Rosie handles life is beautifully reflective, insightful, honest and forgiving.
We caught up with Rosie at her book party at Omar’s in NYC to talk about the book and that weird J.Lo feud. Read it all below!
The book recounts experiences of child abuse, mental illness, sexual abuse. How did it feel to share these secrets?
“Writing this book feels like 500 pounds have been lifted off my shoulders. It’s beautiful."
You are have worked with so many other celebrities throughout your career. There are rumors of a feud that started between you and Jennifer Lopez. Is there any truth to that?
“I am happy for her, I am. I watch American Idol. For people to pit two Latinas against each other and sensationalize it is shameful. But everyone has their journey as well, I have hope in people. And there are certain things I put in the book at the time of writing, and I was like this is really amazing that I have the opportunity to write my journey. And that’s the bigger picture.”
You are known for your activism in AIDS/HIV awareness and The Urban Arts Partnership. What led you to activism?
“There was a conviction in my heart about championing against AIDS. My friends started dropping like flies and I didn't understand it. Then my mother contracted the horrible disease. As a child that wasn't treated properly and was not presented with opportunity, proper healthcare, food…I never want anyone to have to experience that. For me to be able to help, it’s a blessing and it’s an honor.”
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with Latinas?
“If you have an opportunity to change the world do it!”