Though Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria Parker and Christina Aguilera work hard to break barriers in show business, they owe much to the legacy of Dolores del Rio, the original Latina star and style icon. Dubbed "the most beautiful woman in Hollywood" by Marlene Dietrich, the Mexican actress was celebrated internationally for her talent and incomparable looks: raven hair, perfectly symmetrical bone structure and poignant eyes. Del Rio went on to appear in over 60 films, from the silent era to Hollywood's Golden Age, before returning to Mexico and revitalizing the cinema of her home country. In addition to her awe-inspiring filmography, this diva loved and married many times and even had an affair with Orson Welles, who was a decade younger. And as if that weren't cool enough, she also befriended artists like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
Del Rio's amazing story starts in 1905, when she was born Maria de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete to a wealthy Mexican family that lost its riches during the Mexican Revolution. As a teenage newlywed, she set off for Hollywood to seek her fortune. In the 1930s, Del Rio was considered "the most perfect feminine figure in Hollywood" and scored roles over her Anglo counterparts repeatedly, according to Joanne Hershfield, author of The Invention of Dolores Del Rio. It's also true, though, that she often starred as the "exotic beauty" in those classic films, such as Bird of Paradise, In Caliente and Flying Down to Rio. Frustrated by the constant typecasting, Del Rio returned to Mexico in 1942, where she became a central figure in the Golden Era of Mexican cinema and also founded Rosa Mexicano, an organization of women dedicated to supporting the rights of Mexican actors.
Though she died in 1983 to liver disease, Del Rio's memory lives on in her myriad films, her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in the in the image of the contemporary Latina A-listers who continue to emulate her vintage glamour. And of course, in the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres in Mexico City where her ashes are interred. ¡Qué viva Mexico!
Watch Hollywood's adulation of Dolores del Rio in this clip from the 1935 film In Caliente, below, and click here to see examples of how her style has influenced today's stars!