Sure, Sunday's Academy Awards was filled with enough glitz and glam to make your eyes sore, but it was also a sad moment when Mexican American actress Lupe Ontiveros was missing during the 2012 memorial tribute. The snub resulted in a grassroots campaign that pressured the Academy to include her in their online tribute, which she was also absent from.
"This is so upsetting and sad because she totally deserved to be included," said actress Isabel Cueva. "She was such an icon for Latinos. I think the world needs to know how this happens, how they choose 40 out of 400 names?"
In an open letter to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) noted that Ontiveros wasn’t a member of the Academy, hence her omission from the Oscars tribute.
But why would an actress like Ontiveros, whose career spanned 35 years and included prominent roles in Selena, As Good As It Gets, Real Women Have Curves, and Desperate Hoursewives, be denied membership to the Academy?
According to NBC Latino, Ontiveros, who once estimated she played a maid more than 150 times, applied for membership in the Academy before her death in July 2012 with support from actors Miguel Sandoval and Edward James Olmos. The Academy's racial breakdown could be to blame.
A 2012 LA Times Oscars study revealed that 94% of the Academy’s 5,765 members are white and 77% are male. Latino members comprise less than 2% of total membership. According to movie critic and NBC Latino contributor Jack Rico, omitting Ontiveros from the Oscar tribute reflects the Academy’s lack of diversity and awareness regarding Latino talent.
But Ontiveros wasn't the only star snubbed. Disco queen Donna Summer, The Jeffersons' Sherman Alexander Hemsley, and Native American actor Russell Charles Means (The Last of Mohicans, Natural Born Killers, and Pocahontas) were also left out.
“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,” Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of NHFA said.